My fabulous friend, Marty, recently loaned me her savvy photography skilled self and helped me get some pictures of Lanie’s Down syndrome traits for this project here on my blog.  I want to highlight her Down syndrome characteristics, while at the same time point out that she is more like her siblings, Rabbit, and me than she is different. I think for many new parents of a child with Down syndrome, this can be a sad thought – that their child won’t look like them or their siblings. That they are going to be so different. Facing this concern head on was so helpful for me to begin accepting Lanie’s diagnosis and I want to talk about it a little to help anybody else who is now where I was then.

Babies with Down syndrome have a total of 47 chromosomes. There are two sets of 23 typical chromosomes, one set from Mom, the other set from Dad. Because of this, the vast majority of their physical traits will be from their parents and they will have very much in common with their siblings, as I will point out below when it applies. That one little extra chromosome does have it’s own role to play in how our children with Down syndrome look, however, and that is an important part of this post too.

First and foremost, babies with Down syndrome look like babies.

Impossibly cute babies, I might add.

One of the most telling facial features of Down syndrome are the almond shaped eyes that turn up at the outside corners. They also tend to have pockets underneath their eyes sometimes making them look sleepy. Lucy(6) was also born with almond eyes just like Lanie but, while Lucy’s still have that doe eye angle, they are no longer almond shaped.

I love Lanie’s adorable ears and how they have this slight bend, though they do not have the significant folding over that is somewhat common in Down syndrome.

Another common Down syndrome marker seen on ultrasounds is a low or no nasal bone.  Lanie does have a nasal bone, though it is slightly shorter than average.  While I was pregnant with her, my perinatologist didn’t think she had Down syndrome at first, even with her other markers, because he saw a nasal bone on the ultrasound so I guess it’s very common for children with Down syndrome to not have one at all. I’ll also add that Kait(22) Maggie(3) and Sam(10) were all born with low nasal bones so it is normal for our kids.

One of her sweet little starfish hands has only a single crease across the palm, commonly seen in Down syndrome. However, my typical 14-year-old delights in the fact that he, too, has a single crease on one hand just like his baby sister. You’ll often find the pinky finger bent inward or missing a joint in a child with Down syndrome. This is not the case with Lanie.

Her adorable baby feet.  She was born with a sandal gap between her big and second toes on both feet.  This is very common in children with Down syndrome. Also, it’s very common in children without Down syndrome. I actually question whether it is a legitimate characteristic of Down syndrome because half of my children have a sandal gap and about 50% of the people I talk to about it have a sandal gap. It seems pretty common across the general population.

But the little crease between the big and second toes on the sole of the foot is not as common in typical kids and seems to be a distinct, though less recognized Down syndrome trait.

Lanie’s hair is growing in a very distinct pattern. From my experience, babies with Down syndrome tend to grow longer, thicker hair on the tops of their heads. They start out with natural mohawks. This is absolutely the case with Lanie, as well. Maggie also had similar baby hair and she ended up with a sort of mohawk/mullet hybrid that is still growing out now even though she is 3. 

And her hair is a medium brown color. This is also said to be very common in Down syndrome. I’m not so sure about that, however, as I have seen many, many children with Down syndrome who have blond, red, or black hair. Plus, I have 4 other children and a husband with medium brown hair and I had medium brown hair as a child, which has since turned to dark brown. So I’m thinking the hair color is more likely to come from the parents than that extra chromosome.

Edited to add this: And her mouth turns down at the corners. It’s also very small and the roof of her mouth is quite high. Matthew also has a very high arch in his mouth and Kait’s and Matthew’s mouths are smaller, just like Lanie’s. Many children with Down syndrome have protruding tongues that appear large, however, Lanie’s tongue doesn’t protrude all that much. It mostly stays inside her mouth or sits just on her lower lip. I have heard that this can change as she grows and speech therapy can be very helpful.

And finally, the extra skin on the back of her neck. This fold used to be more prominent but has become less noticeable as she has grown. We had to work to get a decent picture of it. She wasn’t cooperating.

Not all babies with Down syndrome will have these same characteristics and there are many characteristics of Down syndrome that Lanie doesn’t have.  I have also found that most of her Down syndrome characteristics can be found in my typical children, as well.

We see our other kids in Lanie every day.  She is more like us than she is different.

Thanks to my long-time friend, Connie, who helped me with this one. I edited the post and this next part is no longer necessary.  I want to add here that there is something distinct about Lanie’s mouth that I think is a Down syndrome trait but I really cannot pinpoint what exactly it is.  If you can see it please leave a comment telling me what you see.

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