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Caring for a child with Down syndrome

2-minute read

Children with Down syndrome are children, above all else. As babies they cry and sleep, and as they grow they walk and talk. If you’re caring for a child with Down syndrome, you might face some challenges different to other parents.

Caring for a baby with Down syndrome

If you’re told your unborn child has Down syndrome, it’s important to work with your doctors and midwives to plan the birth. They will also plan what might happen when your baby is born.

Once born, your baby will need some tests to check their heart function, hearing, vision and overall health. This might mean you and your baby need to stay in hospital a little longer than usual.

Most babies with Down syndrome can breastfeed, but your doctor and midwife can talk to you about anything special you need to do.

As with any newborn, love and care are the most important requirements, but your baby’s health may need to be monitored closely.

Growth and development

Once your child is home, regular check-ups with the family doctor are important. Your child might be slow to crawl, slow to walk and slow to talk. You can help your child develop through:

  • physiotherapy — to help your child gain the muscle tone needed for crawling and walking
  • occupational therapy — to help with fine motor skills and co-ordination
  • speech and language therapy — to help develop facial muscles for speech, feeding and swallowing and to help the child learn to communicate effectively
  • special education and psychology — to help with social and behavioural challenges

Help and support for families

As with all children, raising a child can be very rewarding, but also very challenging. Creating a strong support network of family, friends, community groups and respite care providers is important.

It can help if you make contact with other families that have a child with Down syndrome. They can be a great source of support. Try Down Syndrome Australia or its local association.

Parents of children diagnosed with Down syndrome are eligible for financial assistance to help access support networks and early intervention services through the Better Start for Children with Disability initiative or the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

For support and information

For parenting support, call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436.

Explore the Carer Gateway for how to get more support.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: November 2019


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Down syndrome and family support - Better Health Channel

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Our child disability resources cover assessment, diagnosis and intervention for Angelman, Down and Rett syndromes, deafblindness and many more disabilities.

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Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

This information is for your general information and use only and is not intended to be used as medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes.

The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

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