FASD The Course > Module 4: FASD Signs and Symptoms > 6. Signs and Symptoms: Infants and Toddlers
Module 4: FASD Signs and Symptoms
Signs and Symptoms: Infants and Toddlers
Alcohol-exposed infants are often irritable and do not respond to holding and rocking.
Many have a poor sucking reflex, which can interfere with nursing and feeding.
This may lead to failure to thrive.
Some women may drink alcohol to stimulate milk production, but it is a myth that alcohol improves breast
milk. In fact, alcohol can be transmitted through breast milk. Therefore, women who have problems abstaining
from alcohol use should not nurse their babies.
Infants with an FASD may also have low muscle tone or be floppy. They may have poor spatial
awareness, resulting in a failure to cross the midline (e.g., reaching for something to the left with one's right hand). Many fail to meet normal
developmental milestones for sitting, crawling, and walking.3
Prenatal alcohol exposure can also impair attention regulation. This deficit may affect cognitive
development and related behaviors.4
Specific signs seen in infants include:
- Problems with sleeping and eating
- Delayed development such as walking and talking
- Poor adjustment to the environment
- Hypersensitivity to noise, light, taste, and touch
- Hearing and vision difficulties
- Lack of stranger anxiety
- Bonding problems
Caregivers have reported success with swaddling.
Native American programs and some hospitals are promoting cradle boards and swinging the infant in a hammock
or a device that mimics this motion.
Speech and language difficulties are also common in children with an FASD. Children with prenatal alcohol
exposure may talk late and have trouble understanding others. They may not follow directions.
Complex speech development is often slow, and the child may have much less detailed language
Problems with word meaning and sentence structure show up early. Many children have trouble finding the
right words to say what they want. They also may be able to repeat what has been said but may not understand
it. That is they understand the words but not their meaning. Thus, children with an FASD may not follow the
specific directions given.