Breastfeeding an infant with neurological problems
Breastfeeding an infant with
How does breastfeeding help my Are there special benefits for a
baby? baby with neurological problems?
Breast milk: Breastfeeding helps the baby develop
coordination of the muscles and nervous
• is more nutritious and easier to
system. The jaw and mouth movements
digest than formula
needed for breastfeeding help with this.
• gives immune protection not found
in formula The extra closeness and stimulation of being
at the breast can enhance the relationship
• lowers risk of infections
between mother and baby.
• helps minimize allergies
• helps the digestive system mature; What challenges could my baby
protects against some bowel have with breastfeeding?
An infant with neurological problems
• lowers risk of Sudden Infant Death usually is either:
Syndrome (SIDS) • hypotonic (has poor muscle tone)
• promotes eye and brain or
development • hypertonic (has overreactive muscle
• is more economical than formula
Your infant may tend to:
When you breastfeed:
• have a non-rhythmic suck
• you create a special bond
with your baby • arch the body
• your baby’s mouth and • overreact to stimulation
tongue coordination improves, which
• do too much “rooting”
will help speech skills
• bite when swallowing (tonic bite reflex)
• you burn more calories than
usual • have weak reflexes for sucking,
swallowing, and gagging
• your uterus may shrink
toward its pre-pregnancy size more • get tired more easily: may not nurse
quickly long enough to get the hind milk, which
has the most calories
For more details, see the education sheet
Breastfeeding - neuro
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How can I help my baby Try breastfeeding using a sling to keep baby
breastfeed? flexed, and to free up your hand to support
the chin and jaw.
Feed often (8 to 12 times in 24 hours). You
may need to wake your baby to feed. Look
for mouth or hand movement even if the
baby’s eyes are closed. This usually means
the infant is in a lighter sleep and can wake
up more easily. Other ways to wake the
baby: undress for a diaper change, or make
A baby with low muscle tone usually sucks
better when the head and bottom are level,
Once baby starts sucking, look for jaw, ear,
or close to it. Support your baby using
and temple movement. If not seen, the
pillows on your lap.
infant’s suck is probably not as strong as it
needs to be.
Sometimes the dancer-hand position (see
picture below) can be used to support the
Slide the hand under your breast forward, so
you are supporting the breast with 3 fingers
rather than 4. Form a U-shape with your
thumb and forefinger to cradle your baby’s
chin. This will help your baby press the
nipple and areola between the gums.
If the infant tends to arch the body, try to
hold the infant flexed, with knees bent (as if
sitting) and spine rounded. Swaddling in a
blanket in a flexed position can help.
If your baby does not start sucking, express dancer-
some breast milk onto the nipple by hand or hand
use a pump to get “let-down” started. This position
can encourage the infant to suck.
A breast pump can boost your milk supply
while you get started. Feel free to ask your
doctor or nurse practitioner.
Breastfeeding - neuro
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How will I know if my baby is Get comfortable before starting a feeding.
getting enough milk? Find a special place—perhaps where you
can look out of a window. Cuddle and chat
Your baby should nurse every 2 or 3 hours with your baby during each feeding.
(8 to 12 times in 24 hours), including some
feedings during the night. Keep what you need at hand—maybe the
phone and something to drink. You may
Watch for this pattern in your baby’s urine want to listen to music or a relaxing
and stools during the first week after birth: program. If you are comfortable and well
supported physically and emotionally, you
Days Wet diapers Stool Number of stools will have more energy to support your baby.
after (at least this color (at least this many
many in 24 hrs) in 24 hrs)
1st day 1 possible stool
smears in first 24 This sheet is not specific to you and your
black baby, but provides general information. If
2nd day 2 1 to 2 stools you have any questions, please talk to the
3 day 3 stool turns 2 to 4 stools nurse or lactation specialist.
4th day 4 softer, and 3 to 5 stools
At home, if you cannot tell if your baby is
getting enough milk, or if you have other
5th day 5 yellow, 3 to 5 stools concerns, please call the clinic. If you need
soft, seedy a pump or a lactation specialist, call:
Hollister at 1-800-323-4060, or
What else do I need to know? Medela at 1-800-835-5968.
If the infant has a non-rhythmic suck, try La Leche League, International provides
using a rocking chair, and offer extra chin help and support to breastfeeding mothers
support while breastfeeding. over the phone and in support groups. For
information, call 1-800-525-3243.
Breastfeeding in calm surroundings with
few distractions can help the infant who Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota
easily overreacts to stimulation. Patient/Family Education
2525 Chicago Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55404
Take care of yourself. You will be spending 01/09 Copyright
a lot of time each day feeding your baby. This sheet is not specific to
Patience is important.
Breastfeeding - neuro
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