I was so excited to breastfeed my second child last April. I had my first eight years ago, and thought that perhaps back then I just had not tried hard enough. I also thought maybe the first time I did something wrong, and thought that this time would work out perfect. My first baby was sent to the NICU for jaundice on day three, and then was given an IV for dehydration, which was followed by formula. I did my research and was told that you should not supplement because if you did supplement you could lose your supply of breast milk.
I started to fret at the hospital when my new baby was struggling to latch. I became frustrated when I could not hand express anything other than the smallest beads of milk. However, I was told that number of diapers was fine and his weight loss was within the acceptable range. I was told to go home and keep bringing him to breast, and to not supplement. So that is what I did. My baby cried endlessly and his throat always sounded dry. His latch was very weak. The milk still had not come in and I never felt engorged. I thought something was wrong and my husband wanted to give him some formula, but I begged him to wait for my milk to come in just liked I was taught.
On day five of my baby’s life we took him to his first appointment. He weighed in with a 17% total weight loss, and ran a slight fever when they took his temperature. His doctor told us that we needed to rush him to the hospital because she feared he may have a bacterial infection and that he could only have hours to live. The doctor also told us to immediately start supplementing. We gave him formula in the office and rushed him to the children’s hospital. While we were in the emergency room his temperature dropped to a normal temperature. I felt relieved. We stayed there for a while and they came to check on him a little later. They found that his temperature had dropped below a regular reading and that he was developing symptoms of hypothermia. They told us this was serious and he needed to go through testing to run cultures. I had never been so scared in my life.
They started by taking a urine sample with a catheter. Next they performed a lumbar puncture. I could not believe my five day old baby was getting a lumbar puncture; it was so horrible to watch. They also had to keep trying to insert the needle in the spinal fluid because he was so badly dehydrated that they could not get enough fluid for the culture sample for bacterial meningitis. We were checked into the hospital and given a ICU room.
The next 48 hours were so scary. They gave him antibiotics just in case he had an infection and they performed more tests and cultures. They gave him multiple IVs and fluids. He was silent. He stopped crying. He did not move or cry when they poked and prodded at him. He stopped having wet diapers. I started using a breast pump at the hospital only to see that I made drops, just like with my first baby. I had starved him. I had medical professionals who guided me and told me that everything was perfect. They told me that I was doing everything right, but there was my baby hospitalized, and it was all my fault. His cultures all came back negative. There was no bacterial infection.
His weight loss and hypothermia were from starvation.
I want parents to know that fed is best and sometimes supplementing is necessary and can save a life. The threat of dehydration is real and can have devastating outcomes. I’m glad that my baby is healthy and happy now and that he came around…but why did it have to come to that? Why did it come to such extremes? Why was no one listening to me or to my baby before we left the hospital?
Next time my baby will not starve. Next time I will know that I need to supplement and that it is okay to do that, even in a BFHI hosptial!
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