Early Childhood Intervention
This website is a place for families who are facing
challenges pertaining to their child's development and
It is a place to find answers and practical
suggestions. That's what Early Intervention Support is all
Whether a family has a child with a challenging behavior,
a disability or developmental issue, childhood is short - it
should be savored and enjoyed.
Ask a Therapist
We understand developmental milestones and the challenges
of Special Needs children. We spend a great deal of time
with families understanding the inner workings of childhood
routines and interactions. Ask us about your child today!
Ask a Therapist
Breastfeeding Tips for Mothers
Why Should You Breastfeed Your Baby?
Pediatricians recommend breast milk for baby's health.
A mother's milk has just the right amount of fat, sugar,
water, and protein that is needed for a baby's growth and
Most babies find it easier to digest breast milk than they do
formula. The antibodies in breast milk have been proven to help
protect infants from bacteria and viruses. This helps babies
fight off infection and disease. In addition, there's no need to
worry about the quality of the water used to make the milk;
human milk straight from the breast is always sterile.
Breastfeeding is good for mom's health, too!
Breastfeeding saves times and money. You do not have to
purchase, measure, and mix formula, and there are no bottles to
warm in the middle of the night.
Breastfeeding also helps a mother bond with her baby. Physical
contact is important to newborns and can help them feel more
secure, warm, and comforted.
Nursing uses up extra calories, making it easier to lose the
pounds gained from pregnancy. It also helps the uterus get back
to its original size more quickly and lessens any bleeding a
woman may have after giving birth.
Breastfeeding may lower the risk of breast and ovarian cancers.
The U.S. Surgeon General Recommends Breastfeeding
The U.S. Surgeon General recommends that babies be fed with
breast milk only ' no formula ' for the first 6 months of life.
It is better to breastfeed for 6 months and best to breastfeed
for 12 months, or for as long as you and your baby wish. Solid
foods can be introduced when the baby is 6 months old, while you
continue to breastfeed.
Breastfeeding a Baby with Special Needs
Learning to breastfeed can be difficult for any new mother,
but if your baby is born prematurely, or with a congenital
condition, such as Down Syndrome or a cleft lip or palate,
breastfeeding becomes even more challenging and important.
Breastfeeding can be a calming respite from the emotional ups
and downs of raising a special-needs baby, and your child will
reap the nutritional and immunological benefits of breast milk.
'A baby with a cleft lip or palate, for example, is often
more prone to developing upper respiratory problems, such as
colds, allergies, and ear infections,' says Aimee Creelman, a
breastfeeding consultant at St. Luke's Hospital in San
Francisco. 'Many studies show that these babies do much better
when they get their mother's milk.'
Breast milk helps babies with heart problems or cystic
fibrosis gain needed weight. It can also help prevent the
respiratory infections and bowel problems that are common with
'Breast milk can help protect your baby from infections in
surgery and help them heal afterward,' says Jan Barger, a
lactation consultant in Wheaton, Illinois. 'Sometimes a mom
feels helpless while the doctors are busily trying to help her
child, but breastfeeding is something that only Mom can do for
you may face breastfeeding a special needs child
A baby with a cleft lip or palate, the fourth most common
birth defect, may have difficulty latching on to your areola.
The cleft palate, an opening in the roof of the mouth that goes
up to the inner chambers of the nose, makes it hard for a baby
to create an airtight seal on the breast. Read this page on
Your baby's sucking ability will depend on the size of the
cleft, as well as on the size of your breast and the
compressibility of your nipple. 'A compressible, soft nipple
works best for a baby with a cleft palate, because if the breast
is soft enough, it can press into the palate and suction can be
created,' Creelman says.
Syndrome baby may have muscles that are either poorly
developed or too stiff ('hypertonic'); either condition can make
it difficult to position her at your breast. She may also have
problems in her mouth, such as a too-large tongue or a flat
palate, which can affect the depth of latch and make your
The small jaw and receding chin that are symptomatic of Pierre
Robin Syndrome, a rare condition, can also make it very
difficult to breastfeed.
But just because your baby has been diagnosed with one of
these conditions doesn't necessarily mean you won't be able to
nurse. 'The amount that a disability affects breastfeeding
depends on the degree and type of the condition,' Barger says.
'The only condition that I know of where you absolutely can't
breastfeed is galactosemia, when the baby can't metabolize
How do you solve these problems?
Although the challenges are different for different
conditions, many of the solutions are similar. The first step is
to establish your milk supply. If your baby doesn't take to your
breast immediately, you should start pumping as soon as possible
after the birth and pump every two or three hours, as often as a
baby would nurse. It's equally important to make sure you stay
well nourished and well rested. 'There's a lot of stress and
anxiety for a mom whose kid is in intensive care and that can
affect milk supply,' Creelman says. 'Our emotions play a big
role in our milk's ability to let down.'
It's easy to become overwhelmed by concern for your baby and
your desire to establish a bond with her, but these emotions can
become detrimental to breastfeeding. 'I always encourage moms to
try and approach the first feeding without too much
expectation,' Creelman says. 'The first feeding attempts are
times to snuggle and let the baby be close to your breasts. Just
let it be a good, close bonding experience.'
Sometimes this connection can lead naturally to
breastfeeding. Creelman recommends what she calls 'kangaroo
care,' or cuddling skin-to-skin with blankets over you and your
baby. 'This helps the mother build her milk supply and can often
segue into breastfeeding,' she says. 'Sometimes the baby will
just start licking and rooting and moving its head toward the
breast. It's just one of those magic moments.'
Once you have established your milk supply and created a
bond with your baby, it might be necessary to try special
feeding positions or equipment.
A Down Syndrome or premature baby with poorly developed
muscles needs a lot of physical body support on the head and
upper back. Creelman recommends the 'football position,' in
which you hold your baby under your arm, because you can support
the baby's chin and jaw with the same hand that's supporting
your breast. Positioning is critical for a baby with Pierre
Robin Syndrome; unless he is positioned virtually on his
stomach, with Mom lying beneath, he will not be able to breathe.
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, a baby with special
needs may be slow to take to the breast. Before his sucking
reflexes are developed, you can provide breast milk through
other means, such as Medela's Supplemental Nursing System (SNS).
Just fill the small bottle, equipped with a tube, with breast
milk and then tape the tube to your breast or finger. An SNS is
also useful for a baby who can latch on but needs
supplementation. 'It decreases the length of time feedings take,
and you don't run the risk of creating a nipple preference for
the bottle,' Barger says.
It's generally best to avoid bottles and pacifiers, because
a baby may get used to the feel of the rubber nipples and refuse
to go back to the breast, a state known as 'nipple confusion.'
But in some cases, a bottle can help. Creelman recommends the
Haberman Feeder, a bottle made by Medela, for babies with a
cleft palate. 'It has a soft silicone nipple that's a bit
elongated and a chamber so the person who is doing the feeding
controls the flow, based on how well the baby's doing,' Creelman
Another helpful accessory is a nipple shield, which gives
more definition and firmness to the nipple. 'This can help a
baby who is having difficulty latching on,' Barger says. 'But in
general, you want to use as few interventions as possible and
make things as natural as you can.'
Where can I go for more help?
Even more than other children, special-needs babies must
have routine checkups with a pediatrician to ensure that they
are developing normally and healthily. You'll also need
emotional support from your doctor, partner, and family, since
learning to breastfeed your baby will require a lot of patience
'One of the best things to do is talk to other mothers who
have been there,' says Barger. Your hospital should be able to
refer you to a support group. If not, try some of these
Smiles, an organization for families of children with
clefts, hosts an online discussion forum.
- The Nursing Mothers
Council provides breastfeeding information and support
on their 24-hour referral hotlines. Call their National
Referral Line at (650) 599-3669.
- La Leche
League International provides support for breastfeeding
mothers. To find a group or trained leader in your area,
call (800) 525-3843 or visit the La Leche League's Website.
- The La Leche
League catalog offers a variety of publications for
parents of challenged babies, such as Breastfeeding a Baby
With Down Syndrome, (LLL Publication #23a), Nursing a Baby
With a Cleft Lip or Palate (LLL Publication #122), Special
Children, Challenged Parents (LLL Publication #3791), and
Give Us a Little Time: How Babies With a Cleft Lip or Cleft
Palate Can Be Breastfed (LLL Publication # 3331).
- The Cleft Palate
Foundation publishes a free 20-page pamphlet called
Feeding an Infant with a Cleft. To order, call (800)
Parenting Tips in Other Areas Include
Learn More About Early Intervention
Thankfully, there are many ways to deal with childhood developmental
delays and behaviors. These include in-home services, outpatient (you take
your child to a clinic), inpatient (following injury or surgery) and school
based services. Which type of therapy should you choose?
Visit our Therapy Options
area to learn more.
Return to Top