WHAT IS the FED IS BEST Foundation?
The Fed Is Best Foundation is a non-profit, volunteer organization of over 560 health professionals and innumerable parents. We study the scientific literature on infant feeding and draw from real-life experiences of parents who have had harrowing experiences feeding their infants—almost always due to insufficient and incorrect information about exclusive breastfeeding.
Our main focus is to identify and fill in the critical gaps in current breastfeeding and formula feeding education, guidelines, and protocols. Through our clinical practice and social media connections, we provide families and health professionals with the most up-to-date educational resources for safe infant feeding with breast milk, formula, or a combination of both. We believe that for babies to thrive, the parent’s mental health and relationship with their baby must be prioritized as highly as how they are fed.
Scientific integrity, the prevention of infant feeding complications, and compassion are our highest values.
OUR MISSION: WHY “FED IS BEST”
The birth of a new baby should be a joyous time, but for too many parents, it becomes clouded by anxiety and stress from pressure—in some cases even coercion—to breastfeed exclusively. Because delayed onset and chronic low milk production are common, one in 71 exclusively breastfed (EBF) newborns are currently being readmitted to the hospital for serious, life-threatening complications from not receiving enough breast milk. Even more, are requiring extended admissions after birth to receive interventions like phototherapy. Lack of professional and parent education on this reality, combined with the tendency to dismiss new mothers’ observations and concerns about their babies, contribute to these preventable catastrophes.
Rates of excessive jaundice (hyperbilirubinemia) requiring hospitalization and phototherapy have increased since the adoption of the exclusive breastfeeding hospital metric (affecting about 6% of healthy newborns before the policy, now affecting 30%). Alarming data has emerged that among breastfed newborns universally screened in the first 48 hours for hypernatremia—a defining condition of brain-threatening dehydration—36% were hypernatremic. The study also showed that this could occur by just a 5% weight loss in some babies, a widely regarded normal threshold. Research has shown that 10% of healthy EBF newborns can develop detrimental levels of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) by six hours of life. Jaundice and dehydration are the leading causes of newborn rehospitalization in the U.S., with 78% of all readmitted newborns requiring phototherapy treatment for jaundice.
This critical gap results in approximately 190,000 newborns requiring phototherapy every year (5.7% of 3.33 million breastfed newborns annually), occurring primarily in those who are exclusively breastfed. Additionally, many breastfed newborns require readmission for hypernatremia, dehydration, hypoglycemia, and failure to thrive These preventable phototherapy admissions alone cost the U.S approximately $2.7 billion dollars annually. The care of a child who sustains brain injury from insufficient feeding complications can result in millions of dollars in rehabilitation and health care costs over their lifetime.
Mothers who wish to breastfeed should be supported while also ensuring their babies receive all the fluids and nutrition, they need to remain healthy and safe. However, through our research, clinical experiences, and the countless stories we’ve received since launching the #fedisbest advocacy, we have learned that parents often feel immense pressure from society, infant feeding education, and hospital protocols to only breastfeed their newborns, even when they do not have enough milk to do so.
The Fed Is Best Foundation is here to represent and advocate for the millions of families worldwide whose babies have experienced complications of insufficient breastfeeding under current protocols. We stand up for parents who have been shamed for nourishing their babies with infant formula and are working to meet their needs with evidence-based and shame-free education. We support all clinically safe and healthy feeding methods and encourage respect and support for all parents feeding their babies according to their family’s unique needs.
WHO WE ARE: CO-FOUNDERS
Dr. Christie del Castillo-Hegyi is an American Board-Certified Emergency Physician, Newborn Brain Injury and Breastfeeding Complications Investigator, and infant feeding researcher, and is a Member of the Global Development Disability Research Collaborators, which has published data on global rates of neurological and developmental disabilities in children. Dr. del Castillo-Hegyi studied glucose’s effects on neonatal brain injury at Brown University under neonatologist Dr. Barbara Stonestreet. She subsequently studied HIV Immunology at the National Institutes of Health, where she co-developed a novel therapeutic agent against HIV. She attended medical school at the University of California, San Francisco.
Dr. del Castillo-Hegyi trained in Emergency Medicine at the University of New Mexico. She studies the scientific literature on newborn brain injury from jaundice, dehydration, hypernatremia, and hypoglycemia related to insufficient and delayed breast milk production and insufficient infant feeding after her firstborn son suffered complications from insufficient breastfeeding under the care of health professionals. She investigates the real-life stories of mothers who shared their personal stories about insufficient breastfeeding complications through The Fed Is Best Foundation Facebook page, which has a following of nearly 900,000 followers, representing families and health professionals in nearly every continent. She leads a group of 560 physicians, nurses, and lactation consultants who support the Foundation’s work to provide infant feeding education and patient safety recommendations to prevent complications of insufficient infant feeding through the Foundation’s website at fedisbest.org. She has been invited to speak at a national neonatology conference and hospital grand rounds on the Dangers of Insufficient Exclusive Breastfeeding and has advocated for increased laboratory and clinical monitoring of exclusively breastfed newborns to prevent starvation-related complications, brain injury, and long-term disability. She has spoken at the U.S. Task Force for Pregnant and Lactating Women and the USDA Dietary Guidelines Committee meeting, raising awareness of these complications that occur daily in hospitals across the globe. She, along with Jillian Johnson, the mother of Landon Johnson who died from starvation-related complications of exclusive breastfeeding, appeared on the Doctors Show. She and Co-Founder Jody Segrave-Daly, RN, IBCLC, senior advisors of the Fed is Best Foundation, and guest experts in neonatology and neonatal hypoglycemia have met with the top officials of the World Health Organization breastfeeding guidelines program to discuss the safety issues related to the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative. Contact directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jody Segrave-Daly is a registered nurse, and her 31-year nursing career has been dedicated to caring for healthy and medically fragile babies in the nursery and NICU. She is frequently referred to by parents as “the baby whisperer” because of her extensive career working with newborns. She has been an international board-certified lactation consultant since 2010 and recently retired in 2022 to pursue an advanced nurse practice degree. She is the founder of The Momivist, Evidence-Based Infant Feeding Education, an infant feeding education writer, and has taught parents how to safely breastfeed for over 20 years.
When Jody began her community-based infant feeding practice twelve years ago, she was not prepared to see the significant numbers of babies suffering from accidental starvation complications from insufficient breastfeeding. She was shocked that mothers weren’t taught the signs of HUNGER before the onset of their full milk production as part of their hospital discharge education. The stories she heard were the same—distressed mothers were being told not to supplement their crying, sleepy, jaundiced, or dehydrated babies—or they would risk ruining their breastfeeding relationship and milk supply. These traumatic breastfeeding experiences invariably impacted maternal mental health during a time of extreme vulnerability. She spent considerable amounts of time comforting parents and assuring them they were not at fault for not knowing their babies were hungry. No mother can accept that their baby was starving.
As a mother of three children, her breastfeeding experiences were uniquely different but were rewarding and positive experiences that she cherishes. Her mission is to ensure that every family has a safe and positive feeding experience, no matter how their baby is fed. Positive infant-feeding relationships are the core of motherhood/parenthood that build trust, bonding, and love and must be protected.
Since the Foundation launched almost seven years ago, countless mothers, fathers, partners, and even grandparents worldwide have contacted her on social media and shared their traumatic breastfeeding and mental health stories. They were told it was rare to underproduce breast milk and they felt betrayed by their healthcare teams, their bodies, and the social pressure to breastfeed exclusively. She believed their stories; she listened to them and realized that the “Breast is Best” message was causing needless suffering, especially for those who couldn’t produce enough milk.
One story that forever changed the course of her professional career was the death of baby Landon Johnson. After reviewing his extensive medical records, it was evident that she had the professional, moral, and ethical responsibility to speak out about his death. He didn’t need to suffer and die from inadequate breastmilk intake because of his hospital’s deeply flawed Baby-Friendly breastfeeding protocol.
She is now a staunch advocate for the Fed Is Best movement and works to provide families with safe breastfeeding education to save other babies from the same tragedy. Many of her evidence-based educational blogs have gone viral as she debunks the current breastfeeding education and fills the tremendous gaps in safe formula-feeding and combo-feeding practices for families.
Her greatest joy is working with families that need to regain confidence after a traumatic feeding experience and want to try breastfeeding again in a way that works for them. Through her work, she assists mothers and their partners in healing from past breastfeeding trauma, as well as providing information about prioritizing their mental health when developing an actionable infant feeding plan.
Contact directly at Jody@fedisbest.org
Meet our Director of Support Services and Senior Content Writer/Editor, Lynnette Hafken, MA, IBCLC. Lynnette directly supports thousands of families through the Fed is Best Parent Support Group to safely and sufficiently feed their infants.
I’ve been an international board certified lactation consultant since 2005 and La Leche League Leader from 2003–2014; I currently work as a hospital lactation consultant and own my Rockville Lactation private practice. Helping families successfully breastfeed their babies has been my calling since I first started attending LLL meetings in 2001. I saw mothers’ ability to grow, birth, and nourish new life as beautiful processes that rarely went wrong. (I also believed parenting was easy before I actually had kids.)
My first baby was born at 35 weeks and was nourished with syringes of my colostrum and high-calorie preemie formula until (with the mentorship of the NICU nurses and hospital IBCLC) I could transition to exclusive breastfeeding. My second child was exclusively breastfed without a hitch.
With my third baby, I had the shocking and baffling experience of both a delay in my milk coming in and apparent primary lactation failure in one of my breasts. With support, luck, and technology, I was eventually able to return to exclusive breastfeeding (on one side). This experience fully cemented my understanding that our bodies are not perfect, and anyway, the “perfect” is the enemy of the “good.” Providing food and comfort to babies is always good.
My years as an IBCLC taught me that feeding a baby is much more complex than I had ever imagined. Beyond addressing milk production and latch, breastfeeding helpers must honor mothers’ own physical and emotional experiences of breastfeeding, protect the parent–infant relationship, and respect each family’s unique needs and resources. LLL philosophy, while helpful for some, does not appeal to every parent, nor does it necessarily ensure ideal outcomes for the milk supply or mother–baby relationship. People are complex. While I know human milk has benefits and I found nursing blissful, breastfeeding a baby is not like choosing a product; it’s a significant investment of the lactating person’s time and energy.
I have developed gratitude for the role infant formula can have in both successful breastfeeding for mothers with low milk supply, and for providing nourishment to babies whose mothers didn’t breastfeed, often for highly personal reasons. (I strongly oppose unethical marketing by formula companies, but hungry babies and their parents are not responsible for corporate greed.)
In 2015, I came across Dr. del Castillo-Hegyi’s story and then Jillian Johnson’s. I was horrified. I had, at that point, seen many babies in my private practice who had been underweight but never with such devastating outcomes. I was appalled that negativity about formula in some healthcare systems had become so intense that Dr. Christie’s baby had been allowed to starve almost to death, and baby Landon—born perfectly healthy—had lost his life.
I then met Jody Segrave-Daly, a fellow “lactation nerd,” and started listening to the many parents comprising the FIBF’s base, whose babies had been the victims of acute or chronic starvation, leading to seizures, strokes, sensorineural hearing loss, cerebral palsy (Chaz), developmental disabilities, and other deaths (Josephine’s baby and Bryson). As a professional lactation specialist, taught that Rule #1 is always “feed the baby,” I felt a duty to explore the systemic causes for these horrific outcomes, and to research solutions, while still supporting mothers’ long-term breastfeeding goals and overall family harmony.
As we continue—now six years since Dr. Christie first shared her link story—to receive message after heartbreaking message from the victims of overly rigid breastfeeding policies, parents whose concerns had been repeatedly dismissed as “just anxiety,” I have come to realize that the Fed is Best Foundation is doing exactly what I had been taught to do as a La Leche League Leader: listen to mothers, because they are the experts on their own babies.
The Fed is Best Foundation works to identify critical gaps in current breastfeeding and formula feeding protocols, guidelines, and education. We provide families and health professionals with the most up-to-date scientific research, sharing resources and support for safe infant feeding with breast milk, formula, or both. Parents deserve to be taught the benefits and risks of all of their feeding options, and most importantly, they need to know how to protect their babies from common feeding complications. Finally, we strive to eliminate infant feeding judgment and shaming, while prioritizing parental mental health and the individual needs of each family.
Fed is Best Foundation is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization with a strict policy of not accepting any funds or donations from organizations or companies that obtain revenue from infant feeding products or services, both breast- and formula-feeding.
In operating this organization, we have no conflicts of interests. Neither this foundation, nor those who started or operate it, have any association with or funding from corporations, lobbying groups, or individuals associated with an industry that benefits from formula feeding.
We do this to provide parents and health professionals with unbiased and safe infant feeding advice. Our organization is funded by our supporters’ private donations, including health professionals and parents. Our safe infant feeding education resources are provided for free because we believe that safe infant feeding is a human right and should be available to every family.
Fed is Best Foundation Bylaws
Fed is Best Foundation Conflicts of Interest Statement
Go here to see the Fed is Best Foundation Financial Statements.