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Acta Paediatr. 2003 Dec;92(12):1479-81.

Down syndrome and breastfeeding.

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Dipartimento di Pediatria, Università di Napoli Federico II, Naples, Italy.



The aim of the study was to investigate the frequency of breastfeeding among children with Down syndrome.


The mothers of 560 children with Down syndrome attending four university hospitals in Italy were interviewed and the neonatal clinical records retrieved. Information was collected on the type of infant feeding and on why some mothers had not breastfed their children. Two groups of healthy children whose feeding habits had been previously investigated were recruited as control subjects (1601 and 714, respectively). A paediatrician in each hospital was interviewed about the neonatal admission policy of children with Down syndrome.


Among the 560 Down children, 246 (44%) were admitted to the neonatal unit. Compared with the two control groups, children with Down syndrome were significantly more frequently bottle-fed (57% vs 15% and 24%, respectively, odds ratio 7.5, 95% CI 6.0-9.4 and 4.2, 95% CI 3.3-5.4. respectively). Only 30% of infants admitted to the neonatal unit were breastfed. The main reasons reported by the mothers for not having breastfed were infants' illness in infants who had been admitted to the neonatal unit and frustration or depression, perceived milk insufficiency and difficulty with suckling for those babies who had not been admitted to the unit. The paediatricians reported that the admission of a baby with Down syndrome to the neonatal unit could sometimes take place not for medical reasons, but for diagnostic work-up or for a more appropriate diagnosis and to maintain communication with the family.


Down syndrome babies are less frequently breastfed compared with healthy children. Support in breastfeeding should become a relevant point of health supervision for children with Down syndrome.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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