Breastfeeding is best. Everyone has heard those words and when pregnant, most expectant mothers plan on nursing their children. However, it isn’t always possible. Unfortunately, one mother found out too late that her son was not getting nourished. Five years later, Jillian Johnson shares her tragic story of how her breastfed baby died from starvation.
The heartbreaking article was posted on Fed Is Best Foundation, who are dedicated to giving better support to breastfeeding mothers and for those who choose other feeding options. Along with Johnson’s experience, commentary was provided by Dr. Christie del Castillo-Hegyi. She is not only the co-founder of the foundation, but is also an emergency physician and former NIH scientist. According to her Google Plus page, she has a background in newborn brain injury research at Brown University.
Jillian wrote that as expectant parents, they tried to prepare themselves. They took classes, read books, and decided that breastfeeding was best. It is what all the experts recommended to ensure she had a healthy child. Johnson even delivered at a baby-friendly hospital. No baby was given formula unless the pediatrician wrote a prescription.
Jillian’s son, Landon, had a fetal intolerance to labor and was delivered by an emergency C-section. Weighing a healthy seven lbs., seven oz., his Apgar scores were eight and nine. When Landon was given to Johnson, he had excellent latch. Every one to two hours, the baby boy was nursed for 15-40 minutes. However, there was a problem. Landon was nursing all the time, but never seemed satisfied. Lactation consultants insisted that the baby was doing just fine. However, there was one who suggested Jillian might have a problem producing milk because of her PCOS diagnosis. She recommended herbs to take after being discharged from the hospital.
Despite Jillian nursing Landon constantly, the newborn would not stop crying. When the new mother asked questions, she was reassured that Landon was just cluster feeding.
“I recalled learning all about that (cluster feeding) in the classes I had taken, and being a first-time mom, I trusted my doctors and nurses to help me through this – even more so since I was pretty heavily medicated from my emergency c-section and this was my first baby. But I was wrong. I’ve learned I have to be my child’s number one advocate.”
Dr. del Castillo-Hegyi explained that inconsolable crying and babies who constantly nurse, but remain unsatisfied are signs of newborn starvation.
“The constant nursing and crying often found in newborns by the second day of life has been called ‘The Second Night Syndrome’ in the breastfeeding industry. This is also when mothers receive the most pressure to avoid supplementation in order to increase rates of exclusive breastfeeding at discharge. Babies who reach critically low levels of reserve fuel and fluids before their mother’s milk comes in can be found lethargic with compromised vital signs after hours of constant nursing and fussing, at which time they are often diagnosed with hypoglycemia, excessive weight loss and/or hyperbilirubinemia, all markers of starvation.”
When Landon was two and a half days old, mother and child were discharged from the hospital. There was no recommendation to supplement with formula even though he had lost 9.7 percent of his birth weight. Less than 12 hours later, the baby boy fell asleep after cluster feeding, then was unresponsive, blue, and had no pulse. The parents called 911 and emergency personnel revealed he had no heart rate and was given CPR on the way to the hospital. Doctors discovered Landon had what is called pulseless electrical activity. It means that he had a heart rate, but no blood pressure. The child was also hypothermic and no cardiac activity was found after 30 minutes of CPR.
— Fed is Best (@FedIsBest) September 14, 2016
CPR was stopped and Landon was left on a ventilator and given IV saline. After 20 minutes, he had a pulse and was sent to a level II NICU. Diagnosed with hypernatremic dehydration and cardiac arrest from hypovolemic shock, Landon’s prognosis was not good.
“Landon received a brain MRI in the hospital which confirmed brain injury consistent with hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy or brain injury from oxygen deprivation due to low blood pressure from dehydration and cardiac arrest. He was diagnosed with diffuse seizure activity on EEG, the consequence of severe, widespread brain injury. Given his poor prognosis, he was taken off life support 15 days later. The autopsy report deemed the causes of death were hypernatremic dehydration followed by cardiac arrest causing hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (diffuse brain injury).”
Even though Landon’s death was tragic and was not Jillian’s fault, she feels tremendous guilt.
“I still have many, many days of guilt and questions – what if I would’ve just given him a bottle? And anger because how would I have known. I remember when Stella was born, and she was always quiet. I kept asking the nurses what was wrong with her. They said nothing. She’s doing what she’s supposed to. Sleeping. Eating. And it was then that I realized that it wasn’t normal for a newborn to cry as much as Landon did. He was just crying out from his hunger. But I didn’t know. I should’ve known. I still struggle daily feeling as though I failed him.”
[Featured Image by Dmytro Mykhailov/Shutterstock]