Health Check: Breast-feeding children with Down syndrome

Moms of children with Down Syndrome form a united front to raise awareness.

Moms of children with Down Syndrome form a united front to raise awareness.

"We don't believe anybody should ever be told that she shouldn't even bother to breast feed her baby,” says a mom in the newly released video by Julia’s Way, a non-profit organization out of Massachusetts that encourages families to reimagine life with down syndrome.

One of the moms in that video is Michele McAdoo Kalnicki, of Lincoln, Rhode Island.

"A lot of doctors told me that I couldn't do it," said Kalnicki.

"We talked to people and they said well you can pretty much forget nursing her."

Kalnicki says she and her husband, Jon, found out their daughter, Harper would be born with Down syndrome when she was 10 weeks pregnant with her, And immediately she knew she would breast feed her like she did her other three children, despite hearing this

"No you're not going to be able to do it. They have low muscle tone. They don't latch well. They have a poor suck swallow," Kalnicki recalled. "And I said pretty much I'm going to do it anyway."

And she did. That slowed down a bit when Harper went in to heart failure and had to undergo open heart surgery at 8 weeks.

"But I still breast fed her when I could to keep the muscles in the her mouth, you know going."

So now, she and nine other women are telling their stories, their challenges and victories, in this new video, filmed at a beach in Marshfield.

"People always say that kids with Down syndrome have special needs and they don't. They just have different needs," said Kalnicki.

"She might have Down syndrome but I feel she's just like the other kids,” said her husband, Jon.

In June, Harper celebrated her first birthday with two other babies. All of them were born within days of each other, all underwent heart surgery at the same time and all were breastfed successfully by their moms.

"It's called Three of Hearts," said Kalnicki.

All three of them, still receiving the benefits of breastfeeding from their moms.

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