My Breast Milk Caused My Baby’s Failure to Thrive


Weighing 9.5 pounds at 4 months

My fourth baby ended up hospitalized for failure to thrive and required a nasogastric tube to feed her. Despite constant breastfeeding, excellent milk supply and milk transfer, she never gained enough weight and then began losing weight. She was born weighing 8 pounds and when admitted to the hospital she weighed 9 pounds, 5 ounces.

I worked in labor and delivery and postpartum units as a tech and then a registered nurse for 6 years at a BFHI designated hospital and I was so indoctrinated by “Breast is Best” that I truly believed “a hungry baby wouldn’t starve” and every mother can exclusively breastfeed, including me.

During the hospital stay my baby was subjected to a profusion of invasive tests, and it was determined my breast milk lacked sufficient fat, calories and nutrients to nourish her.  I was in absolute shock and disbelief!

Elena’s doctors ordered her to begin feedings with a 24 calorie formula for the first creecy2months and then she was fed a 22 calorie formula to help her gain enough catch-up weight. We were able to remove her feeding tube after a month when she began to gain weight and thrive and eventually she was transitioned to a regular 20 calorie formula.


With my first 3 babies, I fed them a combination of breast milk and formula.  My twins always received more formula than breast milk because I couldn’t keep up with their demands. My 3rd baby was called “slow to gain” at four months so I increased the amount of formula he got and by 6 months he was solely on formula. In hindsight, my milk was  probably insufficient then too but my other babies always took a bottle so it was easy to supplement them with a bottle.

Thankfully my sweet baby is now almost 2 years old and perfectly healthy but I will never ever spread the “Breast is Best” myth again!


NG tube removed, thriving

I am now a staunch #FedIsBest advocate and will be joining The Fed Is Best Foundation’s Nurse Advocacy Team so that we can educate other health care providers and provide them with current, clinically safe and evidence- based infant feeding practices.

~Karen Creecy, RN

For more information about breast milk composition deficiencies, please read my blog interview with:  Dr. Shannon Kelleher  and Dr. Shannon Kelleher 2

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6 thoughts on “My Breast Milk Caused My Baby’s Failure to Thrive

  1. Empathise says:

    Almost the same situation with my second son. In our situation, he also completely refused a bottle. He was born at 4kg and at almost 6 months was only 5.5kg. He had never lost weight, but barely put any on at all. In our situation, they didn’t believe that I had been trying to get him to have supplementary feeds with a bottle, and instead accused me (and my partner) of neglect. It was horrifying. No investigation was ever done of my breast milk. Nothing was ever found to be ‘wrong’ with my son, but after around 5 weeks in hospital of a different nurse offering him a bottle at every feed, they eventually agreed that it was a stubborn baby rather than my failure to get him to take a bottle. He had NG feeds for 4 months to get him into a normal weight range, and eventually transitioned back to solid food plus breast milk. Both my other sons have happily been mix fed – I am still mix feeding my almost 13 month old. I am so sorry that you went through that, but I am glad they investigated your breast milk and hope that your experience can help other parents in similar situations.

  2. Karen says:

    Empathise, I am so sorry to hear of all your issues! I am grateful our pedi worked with us, although in hindsight I feel like she was a little too laid back about the whole thing. She and her NP would sit with me to evaluate Elena’s latch and even tried to help Elena take a bottle. I see all the stories of the moms who knew after only a week or two that their babies were starving and I hate that it took months for us to figure it out. There were just so many confusing pieces of the puzzle. I am forever grateful my sweet girl is a healthy and happy toddler now!

  3. Tiffany Kinsman says:

    I t went through this with my 5th baby. He had been constant nursing in 20h stretches and had not gained a single oz in two weeks in fact he had lost 2oz since leaving the hospital. Finally we put him on formula and after only a day on his 2nd week check yesterday he was up 9oz in his weight and is not screaming in hunger. I was feeling horrible after being lectured on breast is best. And now I’m all for fed is best!

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