Babies with Down syndrome often have hypotonia, or poor muscle tone.
Because they have a reduced muscle tone and a protruding tongue, feeding
babies with Down syndrome usually takes longer. Mothers breast-feeding
infants with Down syndrome should seek advice from an expert on breast
feeding to make sure the baby is getting sufficient nutrition.
Hypotonia may affect the muscles of the digestive system, in which case constipation may be a problem. Atlantoaxial instability, a malformation of the upper part of the spine located under the base of the skull, is present in some individuals with Down syndrome. This condition can cause spinal cord compression if it is not treated properly.
Medical care for infants with Down syndrome should include the same well-baby care that other children receive during the first years of life, as well as attention to some problems that are more common in children with Down syndrome. If heart, digestive, orthopedic or other medical conditions were identified during the neonatal period, these problems should continue to be monitored.
During the early years of life, children with Down syndrome are 10-15 times more likely than other children to develop leukemia, a potentially fatal disease. These children should receive an appropriate cancer therapy, such as chemotherapy. Infants with Down syndrome are also more susceptible to transient myelodysplasia, or the defective development of the spinal cord.
Compared to the general population, individuals with Down syndrome have a 12-fold higher mortality rate from infectious diseases, if these infections are left untreated and unmonitored. These infections are due to abnormalities in their immune systems, usually the t-cell and antibody-mediated immunity functions that fight off infections. Children with Down syndrome are also more likely to develop chronic respiratory infections, middle ear infections, and recurrent tonsillitis. In addition, there is a 62-fold higher incidence of pneumonia in children with Down syndrome than in the general population.