The pressure to breastfeed led to the starvation of her infant boy, claims Jillian Johnson.
Jillian Johnson gave birth to a perfectly healthy baby boy and named him Landon. Following the baby boy’s death, Jillian wrote on a Fed Is Best blog that if she’d given Landon “just one bottle,” in addition to breastfeeding, then her baby would still be alive.
Five years ago, Landon died, and Jillian Johnson is spreading her breastfeeding story in hopes that “no other family ever experiences the loss that we have.” Johnson stated in her blog that she and her husband had read all of the books and taken all the classes that new parents usually do. She stated that Johnson and her husband wanted what was best for their new baby, and they had read how important breastfeeding was. They’d read about how you shouldn’t give your baby formula instead of breastfeeding unless you’d had breast augmentation or breast cancer, or if there was other serious medical condition that would preempt breastfeeding.
Jillian’s son, Landon, was born full term, weighing seven pounds, seven ounces by emergency cesarean due to “fetal intolerance to labor.” Upon being returned to Jillian, the baby boy was exclusively breastfed. According to the mother, Landson would latch perfectly fine and would breastfeed for 15 to 40 minutes every one to two hours. By all outward appearances, the baby boy was doing just fine with breastfeeding.
Except that he wasn’t.
In her blog, Jillian states that the lactation consultants — normally RNs that are experts in breastfeeding — would come in and see that Landon was doing great with his feedings. However, there was one breastfeeding expert that noticed that there might be a problem. The lactation consultant in question told Jillian that she might have a problem producing the necessary milk for breastfeeding because she’d been diagnosed with PCOS, or polycystic ovarian syndrome. Women who suffer with PCOS have hormone imbalances and sometimes find it harder to produce breastmilk. As a result, the breastfeeding expert advised Jillian to take some specific herbs after leaving the hospital to improve her breastmilk supply. Despite the diagnosis, Jillian was advised by hospital workers to exclusively breastfeed.
While in the hospital, Jillian was closely monitored by her physician, nurses, and a lactation consultant. All of them concurred that baby Landon was doing excellent when it came to breastfeeding.
Soon, however, it became clear to Jillian that something was terribly wrong.
Landon cried continuously unless he was breastfeeding. When Jillian asked the nurses why the baby always wanted to breastfeed, they told her it was because the baby was “cluster feeding.” The term was familiar to Jillian from the classes that she and her husband had taken, and so they assumed that everything would be all right. Jillian wrote in her Fed is Best blog post about what happened next.
“By the first 24 hours, he had nursed a total of 9.3 hours, had zero wet diapers and four dirty diapers. By 27 hours, he had lost 4.76%. His nursing sessions became longer and longer until he was on the breast continuously by the second day of life. On the second day, he produced 3 wet diapers and 6 dirty diapers and nursed for almost 14 hours total. By 53 hours of life, he had lost 9.72%.”
Jillian and her husband took baby Landon home. After being home and exclusively breastfeeding for 12 hours, baby Landon went into cardiac arrest due to dehydration because he wasn’t getting what he needed via breastfeeding. Jillian and her husband called 911. Once at the hospital, Landon was found to have no blood pressure despite a faint heart rate. The baby was intubated and received “several rounds” of epinephrine. He was hypothermic with an extremely low temperature. After 30 minutes of CPR, the baby was placed on a ventilator.
After MRIs determined extensive brain injuries consistent with hyaxic-ischemic encephalopathy caused by oxygen deprivation due to a low blood pressure – all consistent with dehydration from insufficient breastfeeding — baby Landon was taken off life support 15 days later.
“I still have many, many days of guilt and questions — what if I would’ve just given him a bottle.”
The benefits of breastfeeding are undeniable, but Jillian Johnson wants all new mothers to understand that there is no shame in giving a newborn a bottle if breastfeeding isn’t working the way it should.
[Featured Image by Hulton Archive/Getty Images]