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Fetal Alcohol Syndrome


Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is a group of health problems that a child is born with. It can happen to any child whose mother drinks alcohol while she is pregnant. A child with FAS may have mental, behavior, or growth problems. His face may not look normal. He may have problems with his bones or organs, such as the heart and kidneys. There is no cure for FAS.


Follow up with your child's healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your child's visits.

Problems your child with FAS may have while he is a baby:

Your baby may often be fussy or have problems sleeping. He may have many ear infections. He may roll over, crawl, and walk later than other children. Your baby may have problems eating and gaining weight. He may have hearing problems and may not learn to talk as soon as other children. Ask about specially trained healthcare providers and learning programs that can help your child.

If your baby is fussy and has trouble sleeping:

Some babies are calmed by movement. Others need to be kept still and quiet. Find out what calms your baby. The following may be helpful:

  • Before you take your baby home from the hospital, talk to his healthcare providers. Ask them what they did to calm your baby while he was with them.
  • When your baby is trying to go to sleep, block out noises that may bother or wake him up. Play soft music, such as classical music, or sing softly to your baby. A fan or humidifier can create a low steady noise that he may also find comforting.
  • Dim the lights in the room.
  • Your baby may be calmed by movement, such as an automatic swing. You may also try sitting with your baby in a rocking chair. Never shake your baby. Carry your baby in an infant carrier, such as a front pack.
  • Ask another family member or friend to hold your baby for a while if you need help. If no one can help, gently place your baby in his crib and leave his room for 5 or 10 minutes. Then go back to him and try to comfort him again.
  • Use a light blanket to wrap your baby snuggly. Ask his healthcare provider if you do not know how to swaddle him with a light blanket. Do not wrap your baby too tight.
    Swaddle Your Baby

How to feed your baby:

Ask your baby's healthcare provider what type of formula your baby should drink and how much he should drink each day. If you are breastfeeding, ask how long and how often you should breastfeed. Feeding times may be difficult for your baby. The following tips may help:

  • If your baby cannot feed well with noise or light, dim the lights in the room. Feed your baby in a quiet place. Do not sing or talk to him while he is feeding.
  • If your baby gulps or chokes often, keep his head propped up during the feeding.
  • Give your baby small, frequent feedings. If he becomes very upset and fussy, stop the feeding. Help him to calm down and relax, then continue feeding him.
  • Teach another family member or friend how to feed your baby. This will allow you to have time to relax and rest if feeding times are difficult.

What you should know about drinking alcohol while breastfeeding:

Do not drink alcohol while you are breastfeeding. Alcohol goes from your bloodstream to your breast milk. Your baby gets this alcohol when he breastfeeds.

Problems your child may have as he gets older:

Your child may continue to have the same problems he had as a baby. He may need to go to specially trained teachers and healthcare providers for help with his problems.

  • Your child may develop infections, such as frequent urinary tract infections, more easily.
  • Your child may have eating problems. He may only like to eat small amounts of food at a time. He may be bothered by the way certain foods feel in his mouth. He may not like certain temperatures like hot or very cold foods. Feed your child healthy foods in small amounts at the temperature he prefers. Try foods that are crunchy, mushy, chewy, or smooth.
  • Your child may have problems learning and behaving at school. He may have problems sitting still and paying attention in school. He may feel anxious or frustrated in school because thinking and learning is difficult. He may have trouble meeting and keeping friends.
  • Your child may get upset very easily. Keep him calm and secure by setting simple rules and a daily routine. Provide a regular schedule of activities that he can expect each day. Your child may get upset when he goes to new places. Before you take him to a new place, talk to him about the new place first. For example, tell him about his dentist and medical visits before you take him there. This will help your child know what to expect when he arrives and help him feel less frightened or anxious.

How to care for your child:

  • Keep all medical appointments: Do not miss your child's medical appointments. If you must miss an appointment, call to reschedule it. During regular visits, healthcare providers look for problems that may cause your child to have trouble growing and learning. Make sure your child's eyesight and hearing are checked often.
  • Take him to get vaccinations: Since your child may get infections more easily, he needs these shots to help protect his health.
  • Feed your child healthy foods: While he is a baby, feed your child breast milk or the formula recommended by his healthcare provider. Offer your child foods from all of the food groups when he starts eating solid foods.
  • Place your child in special learning programs: Specially trained healthcare providers may help your baby learn to crawl, walk, and talk. As your child grows, he may need specially trained teachers and healthcare providers to help him with his speech and learning.
  • Work with your child at home: Help your child's body and mind develop by doing fun activities with him at home. Read books and sing to your child. Play games with him. Talk to him and ask him to repeat your words back to you. Do physical activities that provide exercise for your child.

For support and more information:

  • National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
    900 17th St, NW, Ste 910
    Washington, DC , 20006
    Phone: 1- 202 - 785-4585
    Web Address:
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs)
    CDC, National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities
    1600 Clifton Rd, Mailstop E-86,
    Atlanta , GA 30333
    Phone: 1- 800 - 232-4636
    Web Address:

Contact your child's healthcare provider if:

  • You are having problems feeding your child and you feel he is not eating enough.
  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child is short of breath when he is lying down or during exercise or activities. Your child's lips and fingernails may also turn blue.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (Discharge Care)

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