My Baby Was Starving – She Lost 17 Percent Of Her Body Weight While Exclusively Breastfeeding

My daughter was born after 14 hours of labor with no issues, in a baby-friendly hospital, and with what all of the medical professionals assured me was a perfect latch. The nurses kept telling me she would fall asleep soon, that all newborns do, but she was up for 7 hours after birth, most of the hours latched onto me. By the next morning, my nipples were already raw. I had lanolin I had brought with me that I applied as much as I could, but my daughter was literally on my breast for 5-hour stretches. Everyone assured me that she was cluster feeding, that I was doing a great thing by breastfeeding her, and we were sent home with no concerns being expressed, despite her 10 percent weight loss that I was told was normal. (This is not normal.)

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Cara continued to stay at my breast nonstop the next day and night. By day 4, she was finally stopping after 5 or so minutes and I assumed my milk must have come in. She also began to sleep much more, which I thought was because she was finally getting full.

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We had a weight check in later on that day with the lactation consultant. We found out she lost 17 % of her body weight. The LC told me I needed to get a pump, suggested a variety of measures to boost supply, and put me on a triple feeding schedule (breastfeed, give a bottle, pump and repeat). She said to not let her have any more than 20 ml of formula at a time or I would risk ruining my breastfeeding relationship. She also scheduled an appointment for me to come back the next day but never once told me that I should see my pediatrician for an urgent evaluation. 

We went and bought the pump immediately and followed the pumping/feeding schedule exactly. I got nothing out of the pump. Not even a single drop. There didn’t appear to be any colostrum and there definitely wasn’t milk. This is a picture of Cara shortly after she got what I believe was her first meal after being born (on day 4). I tear up every time I look at it because she passed out almost instantly and was peaceful, not lethargic like I realized she had been earlier.

I felt like the worst mother in the world for not realizing she had been starving.


We went back to see the LC the next day for the scheduled appointment at the baby-friendly hospital. We were waiting outside her office and I heard her taking to someone on the phone who must have decided they were not going to breastfeed. The LC was clearly aggravated. She sighed multiple times during the conversation and once off the phone made a comment to her coworker about “some people” not being willing to try. I had been planning on discussing how exhausting it was to pump and get nothing, how miserable I was feeling about her having been starving, but those comments stopped and shamed me.

I remember looking around at all the signs once we were in her office while she grabbed and pushed my breasts/nipples into the position she wanted in my daughter’s mouth, reading the words about the importance of breastfeeding, and feeling so small.

My daughter was my 4th pregnancy and she was the only baby I had to show for it. My relationship with my body was already in poor shape and I felt like it was failing one of my babies yet again. We sat there for an hour and after she weighed her she said that it wasn’t registering she had taken anything in, but she was sure she had gotten something. She had said to stick to the 20 ml only of formula every two hours and keep doing what I was doing. So, I did. I left that office and had to sit down outside the hospital on a bench to cry. Everything hurt.

We had another appointment the next day with a different LC who confirmed my daughter had not gained anything in general, or after the weighted feed. She told me to start letting her have 2 ounces every two hours and “gave me permission” to skip one pumping session if I was feeling too overwhelmed, but reminded me that may be detrimental to our breastfeeding relationship.

On day 7 we had her one week check up and saw the NP at our pediatricians office. My daughter was still well below birth weight and she told us that we needed to immediately start giving her as much formula as she would take. She had us feed Cara in the office while she watched. She ate 4 ounces, promptly falling asleep. Our NP discussed the dangers of a baby not receiving enough breast milk or formula and gently told me that breastfeeding was not as important as feeding the baby. I still get emotional thinking about that conversation.

A real health professional finally gave me permission to do what felt right and, as a first time mom, I needed that.

I continued to do the breastfeed, bottle feed, pump routine for a month before I stopped. My milk didn’t come in until day 8 and I never got more than 2 ounces after an entire day of pumping. I was told I have markers for IGT based off the appearance of my breasts after continuing to try and find why I was struggling so much with supply.

When I got pregnant again, I chose to exclusively formula feed from the beginning because of my traumatic experience with my daughter. I refused to put myself or any of my children through that again. My son barely lost any weight and has been a dream baby. I have never had to worry he’s starving and I never have to hear the sound of a pump again (which genuinely is now the sound I hear whenever I think of failure).

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My babies above are happy, healthy, beautiful, smart kids and they are FED. I am incredibly grateful I found the group fearless formula feeders, which led me to fed is best, so I could make the decision I already knew was best for us without any trace of regret. What fed is best is doing matters. It’s empowering. It will save the lives of mothers who feel overwhelmed and distraught with bodies that just don’t work perfectly, or empower mothers who simply don’t want to breastfeed with the correct information, so they can feel confident in their choice.

-Heather

HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT FED IS BEST ? JOIN US!

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There are many ways you can support the mission of the Fed is Best Foundation. Please consider contributing in the following ways:

  1. Join the Fed is Best Volunteer group to help us reach Obstetric Health Providers to advocate for counseling of new mothers on the importance of safe infant feeding.
  2. Make a donation to the Fed is Best Foundation. We are using funds from donations to cover the cost of our website, our social media ads, our printing and mailing costs to reach health providers and hospitals. We do not accept donations from breast- or formula-feeding companies and 100% of your donations go toward these operational costs. All the work of the Foundation is achieved via the pro bono and volunteer work of its supporters.
  3. Share the stories and the message of the Fed is Best Foundation through word-of-mouth, by posting on your social media page and by sending our resources to expectant moms that you know. Share the Fed is Best campaign letter with everyone you know.
  4. Write a letter to your health providers and hospitals about the Fed is Best Foundation. Write them about feeding complications your child may have experienced.
  5. Print out our letter to obstetric providers and mail them to your local obstetricians, midwives, family practitioners who provide obstetric care and hospitals.
  6. Write your local elected officials about what is happening to newborn babies in hospitals and ask for legal protection of newborn babies from underfeeding and of mother’s rights to honest informed consent on the risks of insufficient feeding of breastfed babies.
  7. Send us your stories. Share with us your successes, your struggles and every thing in between. Every story saves another child from experiencing the same and teaches another mom how to safely feed her baby. Every voice contributes to change.
  8. Send us messages of support. We work every single day to make infant feeding safe and supportive of every mother and child.  Your messages of support keep us all going.
  9. Shop and Fed is Best Foundation will earn cash back! We hope to develop our online safe infant feeding classes with these funds.
  10. If you need support, we have a private support group – Join

We believe all babies deserve to be protected from hunger and thirst every single day of their life and we believe that education on Safe Infant Feeding should be free. If you would like to make a donation to support the Fed is Best Foundation’s mission to teach every parent Safe Infant Feeding, please consider making a one-time or recurring donation to our organization.

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Thank you so much from the Founders of the Fed is Best Foundation!