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Did Your Newborn Suffer Cerebral
Palsy or Another Brain Injury Before
or During Labor and Delivery?

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Our Birth Brain Injury Resource Guide

the guide

Get a FREE guide of resources available throughout Ohio to children and families of children who were born with brain injuries.

Our guide can help you build a foundation of knowledge and tools that will help you help your child
now and in the future.

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Nutrition for Babies with BI

A brain injury at birth can severely impact an infant’s ability to feed. If sucking and swallowing functions are compromised, the muscle power to get even liquids down can be insufficient.

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Issues of consciousness, paralysis, and refusal to feed complicate matters. Choking, aspirating food/liquid into the airways, and impediments to movement of food through the mouth and throat are concerns as well. However, proper nutrition is of utmost importance.

Regardless if feeding tubes are used, and the schedule and type of food involved, nutrition is a factor that cannot be neglected. It is necessary to sustain the healthy growth and development of a normal child. A high metabolism means sufficient numbers of calories are needed. In the case of a brain injury, a lack of nutrition can delay healing and progress.

Elk & Elk

Special Nutrition Needs for Babies with BI

Protein and amino acids are vital for healing. Babies with a leakage of cerebral spinal fluid often lose protein through the drainage. Open wounds and chest tubes, if a concern, can increase the demand for these nutrients as well. The sooner a proper diet can be administered, the better off a baby’s body will be regarding healing and fighting off infections.

For anyone with a brain injury, protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats and oils are beneficial. Eating on a schedule and in moderate amounts can be important as well, and just as much so for a baby. There are many benefits to breastfeeding, as a mother’s milk contains carbohydrates, fats, amino acids, antibodies to boost the immune system, and hormones. There are also inflammation-reducing compounds, enzymes, and vitamins and minerals, plus probiotics and prebiotics.

Breast milk contains the nutrients a baby needs. It also helps cut down the risk of the baby developing an infectious disease that can affect the gastrointestinal, urinary, and respiratory tract, on top of the issues related to their injury.

If using baby formula, consider the child’s additional needs. Lactose-free formulas are available, and so are those for babies allergic to cow’s milk. If the baby is allergic to milk or soy, a protein hydrolysate formula may be used. Hydration is important, but babies usually don’t need water. There is enough in their formula, and it can be hard for their kidneys to excrete excess water fast enough.

Other Tips on Nutrition

Nutrients for brain injuries can include many vitamins, including vitamin B-1 for metabolizing blood sugar, and vitamin B-12 for supplementing losses due to nerve damage and impairments to brain function. Vitamin B deficiencies can increase irritability and sleep disturbances and should be replenished in a baby or anyone with brain trauma. Minerals such as iron, magnesium (boosts nerve impulse transmission), manganese, copper, zinc, and selenium should be considered as well if they are not contained in the formula. However, it’s best to inquire with doctors about nutritional needs before putting your baby on a diet, as they’re unique injury and condition can determine just what they need.