Sunday, December 20, 2009

Mama Bear, Mama Bear, What Do You See?

EDITOR'S NOTE: This post originally appeared on Down Syndrome New Mama on September 7, 2009. It is reproduced here with the author's permission. Click here to see this post in its original context (which may include accompanying photos), to view existing comments and to leave a comment of your own.

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Just as newborn babies of differing nationalities or races have visible distinguishing features, so do babies with Down syndrome. While babies with Down syndrome do share some unique features, they mostly look like their biological parents and other family members. All babies are different and not every baby will have all or even most of the physical characteristics described below.

Babies with Down syndrome have very delicate facial features (which have no negative effect on your baby’s senses or intelligence.) You will find that your baby’s features are very proportionate.

Head: your baby may have a marginally smaller head circumference. This size difference is hardly noticeable and you may not even see it or realize it until your pediatrician measures him and marks his growth chart. The back of your baby’s neck may be chunky but this disappears with age. The back of your baby’s head may be a bit less rounded than the average newborn.

Nose: your baby may have a cute button nose with a softly contoured nasal bridge. This smoothness lends itself to a slightly more broad facial appearance.

Eyes: your baby’s eyes may turn gently upward at the outer edge. His actual eyes will be the same size as any other baby but may give the illusion of being beautifully enhanced if your baby has sparkling brushfield spots. Your baby’s eyes may also have small crinkles at the inner corner called epicanthal folds.

Mouth: your baby may have a little rosebud mouth. A smaller mouth may give the illusion that an average sized tongue is bigger than it actually is, (though the jury is still out on whether some children with Ds do have more ample tongues.)

Ears: babies with Ds are graced with petite ears that may or may not have a slight curve at the top. Sometimes baby’s ears are set a little further down on his head though this is hardly noticeable.

Hands: some babies with Ds have a single line on their palms called a transverse palmar crease. This crease occurs in more than 3 percent of the general population.Your baby’s hands may be smaller and his fingers maybe shorter than average. This does not interfere with a baby’s gross or fine motor skills.

Feet: some babies have a small space between their first and second toes which is often accompanied by a vertical crease on the sole at this spot.

Chest: your baby’s chest may appear slightly bowed out or slightly depressed. This minor difference in shape has no negative effect on your baby.

Skin and hair: you may find yourself with a fair-skinned baby who has lighter colored hair than yours. Some babies have very fine soft hair that may be thin in spots. These thinner spots should fill in as your baby grows.

Muscle tone: many babies with Ds have low muscle tone. While this has no bearing on how your baby looks, you will notice that your baby is a bit floppy with an amazing level of flexibility.

So, mama bear, mama bear, what do you see? I see an adorable baby looking at me.