What to expect when you’re expecting a baby with Down syndrome


What to expect when you’re expecting a baby with Down syndrome:

We continue our discussion on part 2 of this series by pointing out what to expect with a baby born with Down syndrome and what to do before delivery. Click here to read the part one

The features of a baby with Down syndrome can be classified as physical, mental/cognitive.

Physical characteristics:

  • A round face with a flat facial profile
  • Eyes with upward slant (Almond shaped), white spots on the iris
  • Abundant neck skin
  • Flat nasal bridge
  • Protruding tongue
  • Low muscle tone
  • Small stature and short neck
  • Large space between large and second toe

Mental / Cognitive features:

People with Down syndrome usually have some mild to moderate intellectual disability. Although, having said this, it is of note to mention that cognitive development and intellectual ability are highly variable. This simply indicates that while in down syndrome cases you expect mild to moderate intellectual disability, it is however seen in albeit normal individuals as well.

Developmental milestones are often reached much later when compared to their peers. Fine motor skills (movements involving wrists, fingers, feet and toes) may also be delayed and gross motor skills (crawling, walking, jumping) can take a while to develop after being acquired.

There are problems sometimes seen with learning, paying attention, making judgements and impulsive behaviour. However, people with Down syndrome can attend school and become active and working members of society.

Planning for your Baby

In receiving the diagnosis of Down syndrome, it is not abnormal for you to feel overwhelmed. Do not dwell in a state of despair as this will not be of help to you or the baby. Being prepared will give you the necessary confidence needed to care for your baby.

Discuss with your doctor how to go about caring for your child in the first few weeks of birth. Learn all you can about caring for a child with Down syndrome. If possible talk to a parent who is already raising a child with Down syndrome, spend time with a baby with Down syndrome.  Make enquiries about parent support groups, financial assistance on offer if required, school options and government programs that assist children with disabilities.