Written by Jillian Johnson
My name is Jillian Johnson and I am speaking to you on behalf of The Fed Is Best Foundation. I am mother to Landon Johnson of Landon’s Legacy. Landon was my firstborn son who died because he was starving while exclusively breastfeeding.
Today has been a very bittersweet day for me. My littlest babe turned two. And while we celebrated from the moment she awoke to the moment she laid her head down for the night, I couldn’t help but feel a bit sad. You see, today, my sweet Landon should have started his first day of Kindergarten. I should have been able to make him a special breakfast, pack his backpack, and walk him to his classroom for the first time. I should have been able to meet his teacher and new friends. Today, I should have packed his lunch and left a sweet note like, “You’re going to be amazing today!” But, I do not get to. As I made my daughter her birthday breakfast, my heart ached knowing we have an empty seat at the table that should be filled. As I baked her cake with her older sister, I knew there should be an extra set of hands helping me stir the batter and fight over who got to lick the spoon. I’ve always looked forward to being able to create the “my first day” sign for my children, and as I made Landon’s today, I couldn’t fill in the blanks. So I wrote this letter instead–requesting that medical professionals step up and help fight for change, and support the cause that would have saved my son’s life.
Before Landon was born, we felt as prepared as any new parents could be. I took all the prenatal and breastfeeding classes offered in my community and read multiple books on the postpartum and breastfeeding processes. Landon was born in the hospital on February 25th a perfect, healthy, 7-pound 7-ounce baby. Even though Landon cried and cried, I was assured by the hospital staff that everything was going well. I would learn otherwise when finding him not breathing less than twelve hours from bringing him home from the hospital. After two of the worst weeks of my life watching my son slowly deteriorate on life support, Landon passed away at 19 days of age. He suffered seizures and brain damage after a cardiac arrest on day three of life from preventable dehydration. If even only one of the professional staff had acknowledged the critical hunger cues of non-stop crying and helped us supplement, Landon would still be alive today. Rigid exclusive breastfeeding policies encourage hospitals to ignore infant feeding cues in order to reach exclusive breastfeeding targets at discharge. We are one of too many real-world examples of how these impersonal, dehumanizing policies led to tragic consequences for families around the world. The truth is, breast isn’t always best, and we are failing families in irreparable ways by continuing to insist that it is. This harmful dogma persists even in the face of mounting evidence that newborn starvation-related hospitalizations and permanent health complications are on the rise due to exclusive breastfeeding pressures.
Landon’s Legacy has been propelled in the media by my partnership with The Fed Is Best Foundation , a non-profit, grassroots organization dedicated to supporting families reach their unique feeding goals in the safest ways possible. We believe that no baby should ever go hungry from being withheld supplementation and that no mother should ever feel shamed for choosing a safe and healthy food option. We aim to change the definition of “successful breastfeeding” from exclusive to healthy. Our goal is to empower families with comprehensive feeding information that accurately and honestly educates about the potential risks and benefits of each feeding method while respecting the autonomy of the parent. We want to see inclusive support for safe breastfeeding in every prenatal and breastfeeding class, OB office, and Pediatric office, thereby ensuring that every parent knows how to keep their baby safely fed and every medical professional is responsible for the baby’s health, rather than exclusive breastfeeding rates, first and foremost.
The education and support services offered by the Fed Is Best Foundation would have saved my son’s life. Instead, we were left to flounder and fell through the cracks of a failing, ideology-driven system that cares more about impersonal exclusive breastfeeding statistics than the quality of life for babies and mothers. But things cannot continue this way. My wish is that no other family should watch their child struggle for over two hours with their last breaths of life because of these blind, dangerous policies. The good news is change is on the horizon—we are making sure of that. The question remains as to whether you will lend your support for this mission by joining The Fed Is Best movement. As physicians who work every day to ensure the health of your patients, help become part of the solution. We have everything you need to begin advocating for patient safety in infant feeding. If you would like to learn more, please visit the resources below. We know you could make a real difference.
Please consider joining our health care professional advocacy team !
1. If you are an obstetrics care profession, speak to your patients regarding the importance of prioritizing safe, healthy and adequate feeding over absolute exclusive breastfeeding.
2. Write The Fed is Best Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org for free business cards and patient education materials to hand out to your patients.
3. If you care for newborns, please read the evidence-based articles and watch the lectures on safe breastfeeding and infant feeding support on www.fedisbest.org/resources and apply the recommendations to your practice.
4. Recognize constant crying, frequent breastfeeding and weight loss as hunger and suffering. Strive to prevent newborn and infant suffering from insufficient exclusive breastfeeding.
5. Report unsafe conditions related to infant feeding to the Joint Commission on Patient Safety at https://www.jointcommission.org/report_a_complaint.aspx
6. Speak out as a group to the hospital administration and hospital risk management about unsafe infant feeding policies.
7. Join The Fed is Best Foundation Health Professionals group by writing to us at https://fedisbest.org/contact/
8. The Co-Founders are available to lecture at conferences and are available for in-hospital or physician office training to teach safe infant feeding. CME’s and CEU’s will be available. Please contact us. https://fedisbest.org/contact/
For educational e-packets and patient resources– please contact us.
To learn more about our Co-Founders:
To donate to our Foundation: Donate
Dr. Christie del-Castillo-Hegyi‘s letter to doctors and parents about the dangers of insufficient exclusive breastfeeding.