If any alcohol was consumed by the mother during pregnancy, there is a chance that her baby may have a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). FASD is the term used to describe a range of disabilities that can result from alcohol consumption during pregnancy (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), Partial FASD (pFAS), and Alcohol Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND) all fall under the FASD. The birth defects and/or disabilities can vary from mild to severe and can include a vast range of brain, physical, and central nervous system disabilities, as well as cognitive, behavioural and emotional issues. The symptoms of FASD last a lifetime, but may change as the child gets older.
Signs of FASD in Infants
Some infants with a FASD, may:
- Have low birth weight
- Fail to thrive
- Be off the low end of the chart for height or weight growth
- Be irritable and do not respond to holding and rocking
- Have difficulty with feeding
- Have trouble sleeping
- Be sensitive to sound, touch, smells, tastes, movement and light
- Have difficulty self-soothing
- Not seem alert
- Startle easy
- Have poor muscle tone
- Cry often and for long periods of time
There are also physical characteristics associated with FASD. Distinct facial features may include:
- Skin folds at the corner of the eye
- A smaller than normal head circumference
- Smaller openings around the eye
- Short nose
- Thin upper lip
- Lack of a distinct philtrum (the indentation between the nose and upper lip)
Caring for a Baby with FASD
Caring for a baby with FASD can at times be overwhelming. If you are feeling exhausted caring for your baby, call someone to come and help you out. If there isn't anyone you can call and you are at the end of your rope, calmly place the baby in a safe place such as their crib or on a mat on the floor and leave the room for a few minutes. Whatever you do, never ever shake your baby. Take some time out for yourself, because caring for yourself will enable you to better care for your baby.
Signs of FASD in Toddlers
Some of the symptoms from infancy may still be present when your baby is a toddler. A toddler with FASD may also:
- Get upset easily and react very strongly
- Have short attention spans
- Be very easily distracted
- Not be able to focus on any tasks that other toddlers can
- Have delays in their development
- Be frenzied
- Have difficulty using muscles
What Can You Do if You Think Your Baby Has FASD?
If you drank alcohol while you were pregnant and think your baby may have FASD, speak to your doctor. While there is no cure, early interventions may help you give your baby the best chance against serious problems later. There is help and support available for you and your baby.
For more on babies and infants with FASD, check out Maternity Corner.