Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Bevy of Boy Beauties

Remember William from last month’s birth announcements? Well, his mom Tracy was kind enough to send us a picture of him. Isn’t he adorable?


Nykki and Amy have been blessed with a son, Andrew. Check out Nykki’s blog, Past The Apple Orchard to see lots of pictures of little “Roo”.


With great joy, Josh and Berit announce the birth of their son, Curtis. BabyBee can be found hanging out and looking darling on the Beary Bee blog.


Angi and John are delighted to introduce their first child, Jack. He is the star of the show over at Life in Color.


Meg and Dan welcome a beautiful new son, John. He joins brother Danny and sisters Maggie and Emily. He's not on the Web yet, but mom sent a picture so that we can oooh and ahhh over him anyway.



Andy and Ashley are honored to announce the birth of their first child, Owen. You can let Owen completely charm you at My Little Peanut.


If you would like our community to know about the arrival of a child with Down syndrome, please send an email to ds.mama with the baby's info and an email address or blog/website address of the baby's mom or dad.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Stand Up

As a new parent to a baby with Down syndrome you learn fairly quickly that the world isn’t always the kindest place to raise kids. There are lots of things out there that hurt our feelings, and our children’s sense of worth.

This brings out the mama and papa bears in us and we become advocates and educators. We want the whole world to see our precious children through our loving eyes. That is why so many of us blog and make use of other social media.

And right now we are big news. We are working hard to eradicate painful insults by letting people know that it hurts and that it is unacceptable, and immature. The culture around us is rumbling with fallout from Rahm Emanuel’s highly publicized indiscretion. It is the right time to stand up and be heard.

Please head over to Oz Squad and sign the letter written to educate Sarah Palin on the best way to fight for our children. She has the speaking platform we need and we have the voices she can use.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Oral Motor Myths

Myths... a high-arched narrow palatal vault (that would be the “roof” of the mouth), tongue protrusion, mild to moderate conductive hearing loss, chronic upper respiratory infections, mouth breathing, habitual open mouth posture, and the impression that a child's tongue is too big for his mouth... all myths.

Speech and language pathology expert, Sara Rosenfeld-Johnson published an article back in 1997 titled, The Oral Motor Myths of Down Syndrome. In the article she lists seven structural/functional disorders (the myths above) that she feels can be prevented.

In other words, infants with Down syndrome are not born with these oral motor differences; instead they develop them based on inappropriate therapeutic approaches to feeding difficulties present at birth due to low tone.

Rosenfeld-Johnson writes, “Orally, these children look pretty much like any other infant with the exception that they have a weak suckle. This critical observation draws us to the connection between feeding muscles and muscles of speech. In quick order, a cascade of events unfolds for these babies with weak suckle.”

The events she refers to begin with making it as easy as possible for the newborn to eat which sets in motion a downward spiral of circumstances that lead to the development of the above-named oral motor irregularities.

There is an assumption in the medical community that babies with Down syndrome do not eat well, and that they inevitably demonstrate all or most of the seven structural/functional disorders seen in many people who have Down syndrome. Because successful nutritional intake is one of the primary goals that needs to be reached ASAP with a newborn, nurses and doctors often push solutions that may be in direct conflict with the best oral-motor therapy techniques for improving a baby’s oral motor skills.

I can tell you from experience that this is true. I had a baby with severe heart defects that could not eat enough on her own to survive. She could not successfully nurse, nor would she drink well from a bottle. I did not know about Sara Rosenfeld-Johnson’s theories. If I had known, I would have used them as support for my stubborn ideas about feeding and continuous oral motor stimulation.

So what are SRJ’s recommendations?
1. When a baby is being fed, his mouth must always be lower than his ears.

2. A breastfeeding mom should stimulate the mammary glands while her baby is nursing to increase milk flow. Over time, as the baby’s strength increases, gland stim will no longer be necessary.

3. A bottle-feeding parent should use bottles with disposable liners. This allows the air to be pushed out of the bottle causing a vacuum and making it possible to feed in a position where the bottle nipple is presented from below the mouth. The caregiver can push gently against the liner if necessary to facilitate the flow. Rosenfeld-Johnson explains, “This position encourages a slight chin tuck and the child draws the milk up the nipple predominately with tongue retraction. This position and retractive action prevents milk from flowing freely into the child's mouth. The child no longer needs strong tongue protrusion to enable swallowing. It is also important not to make the hole in the nipple larger.”

The article clearly explains how feeding approaches can alter your baby’s future both positively and negatively, making it a valuable read.

Your Turn
Can following these fairly simple suggestions have a significant effect on your baby’s future oral motor structural and functional formation? My child’s oral motor development has been consistent with what was presented in the article, so based on that (and the fact that the points in the article made sense) I would say give it a try.

What about you? Did you by chance feed from birth according to SRJ’s method? Did you not? Does your child exhibit any of the mythical characteristics, or not?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Heart Scar

One of the most frightening things parents may ever face is surgery on their baby. It is said that approximately 45% of babies with Down syndrome are born with a congenital heart defect. Many of these defects require corrective surgery. Before you read anything else, know that heart surgery today has a 95-99% survival rate. I can’t minimize the fear and risks involved but it is important to know that these are very common surgeries performed by excellent, experienced pediatric heart surgeons.

The most common defect is a hole in the heart between the two upper and/or lower chambers which allows oxygenated blood to mix with blood that is returning into the heart. These types of defects are called AV Canal (endocardial cushion defect), VSD, and the less common ASD.

The hole in the heart types of defects usually lead to open heart surgery when the baby has gained some weight and grown a bit. The timing of surgery is often decided by balancing weight gain versus the slide toward congestive heart failure (CHF). CHF is the medical term for saying that the heart cannot continue to do its job without the support of medication (lasix, digoxin, etc.) and perhaps oxygen.

While I am talking about such scary stuff, I will also mention there are more rare heart defects that require surgery before a baby can leave the NICU. A coarctation of the aorta is one such defect.

A baby with a congenital heart defect will be followed by a pediatric cardiologist. She will get echocardiograms (a fancy heart ultrasound) and heart x-rays. She might also get an ECG (the test where they stick the wires on her chest and measure the heart’s electrical activity), or even perhaps a heart MRI. All of this information is shared with a pediatric heart surgeon and he will use it to determine the appropriate surgical fix.

When I first heard (at 30 weeks gestation) that my baby would need heart surgery for an AV Canal defect, I was terrified. The sick-to-my-stomach kind of scared. And I had visions of an angry red zipper scar running from the bottom of her neck to her abdomen. When at three weeks old they told me she had a coarctation of the aorta that required immediate surgery, you could have knocked me over with a single breath.

So yeah, I won’t minimize it. Heart surgery is scary for us parents. The first look at recovery is daunting. There are multiple wires and tubes attached, each serving a unique purpose. But, your baby is feeling no pain and she is being cared for by two or more cardiac nurses specially trained to aid in her recovery. You however may need a stiff drink.

The recovery period for a baby is amazingly quick. In most cases, you will be home within two weeks of surgery. Six weeks later, you will stare at your strong happy baby and wonder if it ever really happened. And there it will be, a thin line a few inches long drawn down her chest, the heart scar. The badge of courage and strength, that if kept out of the sun, will nearly fade away over the next few years.


Your Turn
If your baby has a congenital heart defect that requires surgical repair, you may want to take some time to visit the blogs listed under the Sweethearts & Fighters blogroll in the left column. The path is well worn and you may find encouragement and peace as you read through the stories of those who have walked before you.