I Was Able To Breastfeed My Third Baby Thanks To The Fed Is Best Foundation

During my pregnancy, I began reading the Fed Is Best Foundation’s feeding educational resources and feeding plan pertaining to breastfeeding and combo feeding. I didn’t have  successful breastfeeding experiences with my previous children and wanted to try one more time. I went into labor when I was 37 weeks pregnant. My labor progressed extremely quickly. By the time we got to the hospital almost an hour later, it was already too late to set up an epidural. I struggled for hours with laboring and pushing, and both my daughter and I were profoundly exhausted after delivery.

Before I gave birth, I had studied the HUNGRY educational resource flyer for exclusive breastfeeding. My goal was to prevent inadequate weight gain with this baby. After my daughter was born, she was not interested in nursing, and I was worried because she was tiny. Thanks to Fed is Best feeding plan, I felt confident in letting my husband do the first feed with a bottle. I wanted her father to feed her so she could get some strength to nurse later and so I could rest. I loved watching him feed her as I recovered. About two hours later, I tried to breastfeed her again and she had the energy to stay latched and nursed. I was so happy she was breastfeeding! Continue reading

Update on Fed is Best Request for Video-Recorded Meeting with Lactation Consultant Organizations

As of today, March 13, 2018, the Fed is Best Foundation has not received a response to our request for a web conference with the nearly 100 lactation consultant organizations who wrote to us last year requesting a meeting. We asked for the organizations to meet with us via video-recorded web conference to be posted on the Fed is Best website in order to provide parents maximum transparency. We also invited parents of children who have been harmed by the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative to be present in light of our discovery of a disturbing lecture on brain injury caused by starvation-related jaundice in breastfed newborns given at a prominent California breastfeeding conference given by the  board member of Baby-Friendly USA, Dr. Lawrence Gartner.

Our full response was sent directly to the author of the letter, the Executive Director of 1000 Days, Ms. Lucy Martinez-Sullivan, who was asked to distribute it to all the signed parties. She confirmed via email that she would forward it. However, not a single party has accepted the invitation by contacting us directly or through Ms. Martinez-Sullivan and nothing has been posted on their individual organizational websites acknowledging their receipt of our invitation.  Our invitation remains open indefinitely. We can be reached at contact@fedisbest.org.

Signed,

Christie del Castillo-Hegyi, M.D., Co-Founder

World Health Organization Revised Breastfeeding Guidelines Put Babies at Risk Despite Pleas from Experts—Informing the Public “Not a Top Priority”

By the Senior Advisory Board of the Fed is Best Foundation

A key recommendation of the 1989 World Health Organization Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding which guides the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) is: “give infants no food or drink other than breast-milk, unless medically indicated.” This has led to serious complications from accidental starvation of babies, including dehydration, hyperbilirubinemia (jaundice) and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) — known causes of infant brain injury and permanent disability. Last week, the WHO issued draft revised breastfeeding guidelines, failing to revise this recommendation. These guidelines define the standard of care for breastfeeding management in all healthcare facilities worldwide. Nearly 500 U.S. hospitals and birthing centers and thousands more worldwide that meet the criteria of the BFHI are certified as Baby-Friendly, adhering to the application of the WHO’s Ten Steps.

On Sept. 22, 2017, senior members of the Fed is Best Foundation, and guests including a neonatologist from a leading U.S. tertiary care hospital and a pediatric endocrinologist, Dr. Paul Thornton, M.D, from Cook Children’s Hospital Fort Worth, lead author of the Pediatric Endocrine Society’s newborn hypoglycemia guidelines, met via teleconference with top officials of the WHO Breastfeeding Program: Dr. Laurence Grummer-Strawn, Ph.D., Dr. Nigel Rollins, M.D. and Dr. Wilson Were, M.D. to express their concerns about the complications arising from the BFHI Ten Steps and to ask what, if any, monitoring, research, or public outreach the WHO has planned regarding the risks of accidental starvation of exclusively breastfed newborns. The Foundation members who attended were 1) Christie del Castillo-Hegyi, MD, Co-Founder, 2) Jody Segrave-Daly, RN, IBCLC, Co-Founder, 3) Julie Tibbets, JD, Partner at Alston & Bird, LLP, Pro-Bono Attorney for the Foundation, 4) Brian Symon, MD, Senior Advisor, and 5) Hillary Kuzdeba, MPH, former quality improvement program coordinator at a children’s hospital, managing infant feeding projects and Senior Advisor.

Emails confirming meeting between the WHO and the Fed is Best Foundation available here.

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Open Letter to Obstetric Care Providers on Counseling Expectant Mothers on the Importance of Safe Infant Feeding

Dear Obstetrician-Gynecologist, Family Practitioner or Midwife,

I am writing to you as a mother and advocate for Fed is Best.

You may have seen the story of Landon Johnson, who was welcomed into the world by his parents in February 2012.  Like most new parents, Landon’s mom and dad were lead to believe that Jillian would produce enough breast milk to meet Landon’s caloric needs.  The hospital where they delivered was “Baby-Friendly” and would only provide formula with a doctor’s prescription.

While in the hospital, Landon cried whenever he was not latched onto his mom’s breast. Jillian described him as inconsolable.  She was told that this was normal.  At less than 3 days of life they were discharged from the hospital after having the appropriate number of wet and dirty diapers.  However, less than 12 hours later, Landon was readmitted to hospital after suffering cardiac arrest due to severe dehydration.  He suffered brain injury and ultimately died in the arms of his parents when life support was terminated.  His is a story that you cannot read without tears in your eyes. Continue reading

If I Had Given Him Just One Bottle, He Would Still Be Alive.

by Jillian Johnson with commentary from Dr. Christie del Castillo-Hegyi

Landon would be five today if he were still alive. It’s a very hard birthday–five. It’s a milestone birthday. Most kiddos would be starting kindergarten at this age. But not my little guy. I wanted to share for a long time about what happened to Landon, but I always feared what others would say and how I’d be judged. But I want people to know how much deeper the pain gets.

I share his story in hopes that no other family ever experiences the loss that we have.

Jarrod and I wanted what was best for Landon as every parent does for their child. We took all of the classes. Bought and read all of the books. We were ready! Or so we thought….every class and book was geared toward breastfeeding and how it’s so important if you want a healthy child. Landon was born in a “Baby-Friendly” hospital. (What this means is everything is geared toward breastfeeding. Unless you’d had a breast augmentation or cancer or some serious medical reason as to why you couldn’t breastfeed, your baby would not be given formula unless a prescription was written by the pediatrician.)

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Can Stem Cells From Breast Milk Be Found In The Brain Of Babies?

 

BY ALEXANDRIA FISCHER, PHD CANDIDATE AT THE RENSSELAER POLYTECHNIC INSTITUTE, STUDYING SYNTHETIC MICROBIAL COMMUNITIES

The long list of things that we are told breastmilk can do seems to be never ending. The newest addition to the list is that stem cells in breast milk can travel from the gut to the brain of a breastfeeding infant. The linked news article says stem cells in breast milk have been seen in the brains of babies. They go on to say that breastfed babies are known to have higher IQs than formula fed babies, a fact that is decidedly false when studies control for socioeconomic factors. There is then an implication of some sort of mechanism between stem cells in the brain and an increased intelligence.

But upon closer examination of the evidence, stem cells haven’t been seen in the brains of human babies, but rather the brains of mice pups.

I have examined this study and described the methods as well as the strengths and weaknesses of it below. This study sought to track cells in breast milk from a mouse to pups that she is nursing. To do this they used mice that have and have not been tagged with a protein called GFP. GFP is a protein originally found in jelly fish, that glows green under certain conditions. In this study tagged mice fed untagged mice, allowing the researchers to look for glowing in the brains of the baby mice, to see if cells from breastmilk travelled from the guts to the brains. First the researchers looked at fluorescence or glowing in breastmilk of tagged and untagged mice. They did show that only the tagged milk glowed, however, they did not determine cell types in the milk, meaning we cannot make the determination that it is stem cells that they are tracking. The researchers then claim to have found the stem cells from breastmilk in the brains via glowing in brain tissue samples from mice pups fed from GFP tagged mice. However, this study lacked a control group where fluorescence was measured in untagged pups fed by untagged mother mice, meaning we have no baseline “glow” to compare results too. However, without a negative control (brain samples from an untagged pup fed by an untagged mother) we cannot make a determination about this data being artifacts of auto-fluorescence (background noise). This lack of a control is very concerning in light of the STAP cell fiasco, when major claims were made based on auto-fluorescence of stressed cells, rather than fluorescence due to changes applied by the researchers.
This paper is highly technical, but deeply flawed in the methods. They have failed to show adequate proof that a delicate stem cell can survive the acidic environment of the stomach and travel to the brain. However, even if we accept these unproven claims of breastmilk stem cells in the brain, long term data shows that the point is moot, as cognitive outcomes are equivalent in breastfed and formula fed infants.

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How Do I tell the Hospital I Don’t Want A Lactation Consultant Visit When I Deliver My Next Baby?

Dear Fed Is Best Foundation,

Thank you for everything that you do! Your organization has made me feel so much better about my situation and personal needs. I did have a question for you though, although I should probably explain my situation first. My daughter is now 14 months old. When I was pregnant with her, I had preeclampsia from about 28 weeks onward. I had to take maternity leave eleven weeks sooner than planned because my job as a full-time middle school substitute teacher was too stressful on my blood pressure. I went to the hospital at 37 weeks with blood pressure of 177/100, and they decided to induce me. After 45+ hrs of labor, followed by an emergency c-section, Clara was born three weeks early.

My plan was to try to breastfeed, at least for the first 6 months. We had skin to skin immediately after birth, and I tried breastfeeding right away. She didn’t latch at first, so we thought we’d try again a little later. Once we got back to my room, we attempted again, but she still wouldn’t latch. She had absolutely no interest. She would turn her head away every time I would push her toward the breast, and she would cry as loud as if we were hurting her.

I asked for a bottle of formula. I was advised of nipple confusion, but I didn’t care. They only let me give her 2 mL, so I could try to breastfeed again later.

Then the bleeding and shaking began. I got back to my room and was only able to hold my daughter for about an hour, when I started to gush blood. The doctors and nurses couldn’t contain it on just the pads that they put underneath you. There was so much blood, they were weighing the pads to see how much I’ve lost. I started getting uncontrollable chills and going in and out of consciousness. From what I remember, they said that I was not clotting. They had to take me down to the OR for a D&C. So the first almost five hours of my daughter’s life, I didn’t get to hold her. My very stressed and scared husband did.

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My Baby Went Through Hell And Suffered Needlessly From Starvation

Jenn T.

My son was born on February 18, 2019. He was 6 lbs 10 oz and had a little trouble regulating his temperature at birth. But after 24 hours, he was okay. I was always told breast was the best way to go. I never breastfed my 9 year old so this was my first experience with it.

My son had latching issues at first and it caused major pain and bleeding. But after latch correction and using nipple shields, the pain dissipated. When we left the hospital, my son weighed 6 lbs (9.3 percent weight loss) and at his checkup the next day, he had gained half an ounce.

At home I was feeding straight from my breasts, every time. My son was content and seemed happy.  He smiled and was great the entire time, so I thought. I didn’t pump to see how much milk I had because the hospital where I delivered told me pumping in the first 6 weeks could cause confusion for the baby with latching.

Now fast forward to when he was 21 days old. He had his three week checkup and he was extra sleepy that morning. When we got to the doctor, and not only did he lose weight, (down to 5.5 lbs), but he also had a temperature of 92 degrees. He was hypothermic! So they sent us urgently to the children’s hospital in Nashville. Continue reading

An Evaluation Of The Real Benefits And Risks Of Exclusive Breastfeeding.

by Alexandria Fischer, PhD candidate at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, studying synthetic microbial communities

It’s a mantra we have all heard, on repeat. “Breast is best.” But what does that really mean? Moms are bombarded by messages about the benefits of breastfeeding, such as increased intelligence, less illnesses, and a decreased risk of cancer. But what mothers are not told, is the quantifiable proof of these benefits.

The paper “Is the “breast is best” mantra an oversimplification?“, published in the Journal of Family Practice in July 2018, sought to critically evaluate claims of breastfeeding benefits in an effort to truly understand them. These authors note that the same data has produced a wide range of conclusions about the reported benefits of breastfeeding. They sought to tease apart what variables were truly impacted, and which were not. In this review the authors determined the number needed to treat (NNT) for a myriad of health issues that are often claimed to be reduced by breastfeeding. The NNT simply means how many babies need to be breastfed in order for one baby to benefit. We need to use caution when examining NNTs because they cannot make a causal determination, meaning they cannot be used to say “breastfeeding prevented this infection” they are simply used to determine a correlative relationship.

“The NNT (numbers needed to treat) simply means how many babies need to be breastfed in order for one baby to benefit.”

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Maternal Mental Health Feels Like it Comes Second to Breastfeeding When It Should Be First

This story is for you mommas whose mental health feels like it comes second to breastfeeding, when it should be first.

I have a long history of mental illnesses in my family. I inherited most of them. While they do not define me, they are a part of me. I have Bipolar 1 Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder and a Panic Disorder.

I tried to get pregnant in 2016, but through no fault of my own, was diagnosed with PCOS and had to go back on hormones to re-regulate my cycles. Luckily, I was able to score an appointment with my amazing fertility specialist in Jan 2017 and I soon became pregnant in February. I saw my psychiatrist shortly after and I couldn’t decide if I should bring up how depressed I felt. This pregnancy was very much wanted but I wondered if I risked my stability and my mental health. My husband and I quickly decided pregnancy was not the time to start playing with my medication and I was just going to have to “push” through my depression unless I had thoughts of self-harm.

In this study, researchers found that 1 in 4 women had mental health problems: 15% had anxiety, 11% had depression, 2% had an eating disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder, and 1% had post-traumatic stress disorder. The research also found low prevalences of bipolar disorder and other disorders.

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Fed is Best Foundations Statement to USDA Healthy People Goals 2030

Christie del Castillo-Hegyi, M.D.

From December 2018 to January 2019, the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on National Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Objectives for 2030 published the proposed Healthy People 2030 Objectives for public comment. Of note, the proposed Healthy People 2030 objectives saw a marked change from the 2020 objectives, namely a reduction of the breastfeeding objectives from 8 goals to one, namely, “Increase the proportion of infants who are breastfed exclusively through 6 months” (MICH-2030-15 ). Among the objectives that were dropped from the list were:

  1. MICH-23 – Reduce the proportion of breastfed newborns who receive formula supplementation within the first 2 days of life.
  2. MICH-24 – Increase the proportion of live births that occur in facilities that provide recommended care (i.e. Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative-certified hospitals) for lactating mothers and their babies.
Healthy People 2020 ObjectivesBaseline (%)Target (%)
Increase the proportion of infants who are breastfed (MICH 21)
Ever74.081.9
At 6 months43.560.6
At 1 year22.734.1
Exclusively through 3 months33.646.2
Exclusively through 6 months14.125.5
Increase the proportion of employers that have worksite lactation support programs (MICH 22)2538
Reduce the proportion of breastfed newborns who receive formula supplementation within the first 2 days of life (MICH 23)24.214.2
Increase the proportion of live births that occur in facilities that provide recommended care for lactating mothers and their babies (MICH 24)2.98.1
We applaud the removal of the last two objectives as patient safety issues have emerged from those two objectives, namely increased rates of neonatal jaundice, weight loss, hypoglycemia and dehydration readmissions. We have submitted the following statement regarding the Healthy People Goals for 2030 requesting for a revision of the current proposed objective and the addition of two new objectives.

Exclusive breastfeeding at discharge is a major risk factor for severe jaundice and dehydration. Both conditions can require in-hospital treatment and can result in permanently impaired brain development. Photo Credit: Cerebral Palsy Law

 

Revision of MICH-2030-15 calling for “Increase in the proportion of infants who are exclusively breastfed from birth to 6 months” to the following:

Increase the proportion of infants who are primarily breastfed through 4-6 months who have received sufficient nutrition to ensure optimal growth and brain development and to prevent feeding complications (e.g. hyperbilirubinemia, hypernatremia, dehydration, excessive weight loss, hypoglycemia and failure-to-thrive).

We have requested the following additions to the 2030 Healthy People Goals:

New Proposed Objective #1: Reduce the proportion of infants who require treatment and/or extended or repeat hospital admission for insufficient feeding-related hyperbilirubinemia, hypernatremia, dehydration, excessive weight loss, hypoglycemia and failure-to-thrive.

New Proposed Objective #2: Increase the proportion of parents who have made the informed choice to partially- or exclusively-feed formula to provide safe and sufficient nutrition to their infants to prevent feeding complications (e.g. hyperbilirubinemia, hypernatremia, dehydration, excessive weight loss, hypoglycemia and failure-to-thrive) and optimize growth and brain development.

“Just Trust Your Body And There Will Be Enough Breast Milk”— I Was Devastated When I Learned She Was Starving

Corrine

I’ve been trying to write this for two months but my mama bear anger has been difficult to process. I’m done with obsessing now, and I hope telling my story will help me and any other mother who may be  feeling the same way. I want to move on from the anger so I can be the happiest and the best mother for my baby.

I researched extensively about birthing and breastfeeding while I was pregnant. I was extremely determined to breastfeed and I learned doing so meant I was a great mother and considering the information regarding the amazing benefits which went largely unchallenged, I just couldn’t understand why any woman wouldn’t want to do this. At no point did I ever read any literature or even speak to anyone who highlighted the difficulties of breastfeeding or that some women were biologically unable to breastfeed. At no point did it ever feel like it was a choice. There was no choice – good mothers breastfeed, they gave their babies the very best- the “gold standard” they called it.  My mindset had also taken on a deep suspicion of formula as an unnatural ‘chemical substance’ and basically a second-best feeding alternative and who wants to give their baby second best. Not only this but I had been repeatedly advised by mothers in support groups not to supplement as this reduced your supply and interfered with the breastfeeding relationship which would ultimately rob your baby of the “best”. There was absolutely no choice.

At no point did I ever read any literature or even speak to anyone who highlighted the difficulties of breastfeeding or that some women were biologically unable to breastfeed. At no point did it ever feel like it was a choice.

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Breast Milk Production in the First Month after Birth of Term Infants

by Christie del Castillo-Hegyi, M.D.

One of the most important duties of the medical profession is to make health recommendations to the public based on verifiable and solid evidence that their recommendations are safe and improve the health of nearly every patient, most especially if the recommendations apply to vulnerable newborns.  In order to do this, major health recommendations require extensive research regarding the safety of the real-life application of the recommendation at the minimum.

Multiple health organizations recommend exclusive breastfeeding from birth to 6 months as the ideal form of feeding for all babies under the belief that all but a rare mother can exclusively breastfeed during that time frame without underfeeding or causing fasting or starvation physiology in their baby. In order to suggest that exclusive breastfeeding is ideal for all, if not the majority of babies, one would expect the health organizations to have researched and confirmed that all but a rare mother in fact produce sufficient milk to meet the caloric and fluid requirements of the babies every single day of the 6 months without causing harmful fasting conditions or starvation. There have been few studies on the true daily production of breast milk in breastfeeding mothers.  Only two small studies quantified the daily production of exclusively breastfeeding mothers including a study published in 1984, which measured the milk production of 9 mothers, and one in 1988, which measured it in 12 mothers.  After extensive review of the scientific literature, it appears the evidence that it is rare for a mother to to not be able to produce enough breast milk to exclusively breastfeed for 6 months is no where to be found. In fact the scientific literature has found quite the opposite.

In November 2016, the largest quantitative study of breast milk production in the first 4 week after birth of term infants was published in the journal Nutrients by human milk scientists, Dr. Jacqueline Kent, Dr. Hazel Gardner and Dr. Donna Geddes from the University of Western Australia. They recruited a convenience sample of 116 breastfeeding mothers with and without breastfeeding problems who agreed to do 24 hour milk measurements through weighed and pumped feedings between days 6 and 28 after birth and were loaned accurate clinical-grade digital scales to measure their milk production at home. The participants test weighed their own infants before and after breastfeeding or supplementary feeds and recorded the amounts of breast milk expressed (1 mL = 1 gram). All breast milk transferred to the baby, all breast milk expressed and all supplementary volumes were recorded as well as the duration of each feed.

These were the results…

13 mothers perceived no breastfeeding problems while 103 mothers perceived breastfeeding problems.  The most common problem was insufficient milk supply (59 mothers) followed by pain (11 mothers),  and positioning/attachment (10 participants).  75 mothers with reported breastfeeding problems were supplementing with expressed breast milk and/or infant formula.

Of the mothers with reported breastfeeding problems, their average weighed feeding volumes were statistically lower than the mothers who did not report breastfeeding problems with an average feed volume of 30 mL vs. 63 mL in the mothers who reported no breastfeeding problems (p<0.001).  The daily total volume of breast milk they were able to transfer (or feed directly through breastfeeding) were also statistically lower than those who did not report breastfeeding problems. The moms without breastfeeding problems transferred an average of 693 mL/day while those that reported breastfeeding problems transferred an average of 399 mL/day (p<0.001).  The study defined 440 mL of breast milk a day as the minimum required to safely exclusively breastfeed. This is the amount of breast milk that, on average, would be just enough to meet the daily caloric requirement of a 3 kg newborn (at 70 Cal/dL and 100 Cal/kg/day). Babies of mothers with no reported breastfeeding problems were statistically fed more milk than those with breastfeeding problems, 699 mL vs. 567 mL per day (p = 0.007). All 13 mothers who perceived no breastfeeding problems produced and transferred more than the study’s 440 mL cut-off as the volume required to be able to exclusively breastfeed.  What this data shows is that a mother’s perception of breastfeeding problems is associated with actual insufficient volume of breast milk fed to her child.

Based on the 440 mL cut-off for “sufficient” breast milk production, some mothers who report their babies not getting enough in fact produced more than 440 mL.  However, since 440 mL is the amount of milk that is needed to meet the minimum caloric requirement of a 3 kg newborn, if the mother had a newborn weighing > 3 kg as they would expect to be past the first days of life if growing appropriately, many of the mothers reporting breastfeeding problems may be producing more than 440 mL but are still in fact producing less than the amount to keep their child satisfied and fed enough to grow.  A supply of 440 mL would actually be just enough milk to cause a 3 kg newborn to be diagnosed to fail to thrive at 1 month since they would not gain any weight if fed this volume of milk. Failure to thrive has known long-term consequences including lower IQ at 8 years of age.  So their conclusion that some mother’s perception of insufficient breast milk may in fact be inaccurate as a volume of 440 mL is in fact “not enough” for most newborns weighing > 3 kg.

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The Breastfeeding Support I Received Almost Killed Me And My Daughter; I’m Still Suffering From Breastfeeding Trauma

This is hard for me to write. My breastfeeding experience is a trauma that I don’t like to relive, but is undoubtedly the biggest cause of my postnatal depression and anxiety (PNDA). But perhaps I can save someone else unnecessary pain and heartache. I know some will disagree, but hopefully my story can be a tiny cog in the wheel of feeding guideline reform.

Going into pregnancy, I knew Fed is Best. I decided I would attempt breastfeeding but if it didn’t work out, there’s always formula. Simple. Now, I’m a scientifically minded person. I respect those in the field and the scientific consensus. As I progressed through my antenatal appointments, it became clear. The general consensus is, breast is best, at all costs, with an inference that ‘formula is dangerous’. By the time my daughter was born, I had made up my mind. If other people formula fed, I wouldn’t judge, but I was going to breastfeed no matter what. I’d get all the help I needed.

My baby began crying from distress after breastfeeding.

That help wasn’t enough. My daughter would breastfeed for up to 3 hours at a time as the pain in her tummy would only allow a tiny bit of milk before she would either start screaming and thrashing in discomfort, or fall asleep (probably from low blood sugar). A quick feed would be around 90 minutes. Her reflux also dictated that I had to hold her upright for 30 minutes after a feed, otherwise she’d wake instantly again.  I was with her all night every night, with her chewing at my nipple shield on and off, fighting with her to just take a little bit more so I could have more than 2 hours of broken sleep a night. I was beyond sleep deprived. She was only getting enough milk to survive because she was constantly feeding. She barely slept, and was either feeding or screaming, clearly in pain. Once, people came running in a carpark because they thought she must’ve been badly hurt, her screams were that pained.

Her stomach was swollen and she was in distress

I’d heard that “the only reason breastfeeding fails is a lack of support” a million times. Lack of breastfeeding ‘support’ was not the problem. The health professionals I saw reiterated that “it’s normal for babies to cry” when I was pleading and crying in their offices. I stayed 4 nights in the hospital for extra ‘breastfeeding support.’ I went to the breastfeeding drop-in clinic multiple times. I saw an IBCLC and joined a breastfeeding support Facebook group. I called the ABA helpline. I saw my GP. I saw a second GP. I consulted the child health nurses. I rang Tresillian. I sought support on several Facebook pages and subsequently had my daughter’s tongue and lip ties cut, eliminated dairy, soy and minimised salicylates, tried block feeding, bottle feeding expressed breast milk (EBM), gripe water, infants friend, Infacol, infant gaviscon, colic mix, probiotics, baby massage, bicycle legs, patting techniques, baby wearing, skin to skin, dummies and eventually prescription reflux medication.

Nothing worked. My nipples were completely ravaged and I started to visually hallucinate from lack of sleep. I feared I was going into psychosis. We even brought up the idea of adoption, because I didn’t know how I could physically go on any longer. I felt I had no attachment to this baby because she was shattering me as a human.

 

My husband would race home from work to try to get her to sleep for an hour in the baby carrier so I could take a nap, but I had so much anxiety that I’d just lay there and sob uncontrollably. I was severely, severely sleep deprived but my anxiety would not allow me to sleep. The knowledge that I would be up all night, yet again, just broke me every evening. The constant breastfeeding meant that she was completely dependent on my broken, exhausted self. A break was not possible.

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My Baby Was Put in a Dangerous Situation By Rooming-In with an Exhausted Mom

By US New and World Report Columnist, Stacy Cervenka with Commentary by Christie del Castillo-Hegyi, MD

Several weeks ago, as I was perusing Facebook, I came across an article on the Fed Is Best Foundation’s page that felt like a punch in the stomach. According to new medical research, the number of incidents where exhausted new mothers drop their babies and the incidence of newborn head injuries had gone up substantially in hospitals that no longer offer newborn nurseries, but instead require mothers to “room-in” with their babies. It further angered me to read that most of these head injuries took place while a mother was breastfeeding.

I was so upset by this article that I couldn’t sleep that night, because all I could think was, “That could have been Leo. Why, why, why was I ever put in such a dangerous and inhumane situation that this could have happened?”

For many reasons, I have only shared this story with close friends and family, but here goes:

My pregnancy with our first child, Leo, was very difficult due to hyperemesis graviderum (HG). I had to take a medical leave of absence from my job and was confined to bed most days. I made several trips a week to urgent care to get IVs, as I couldn’t even hold down water. I lost a lot of weight and was very weak and exhausted. When my water finally broke, I hadn’t slept comfortably in probably six months. I had gotten almost no sleep the night before, as I was crouched in my shower vomiting and dry heaving (as usual). The labor and delivery itself was uneventful, but it was another 28 hours with no sleep or real rest. Our son Leo was born six weeks premature and had some minor issues regulating his body temperature and with his bilirubin.

After Leo was born, per the policy at UC Davis Medical Center, he was expected to “room-in” with us. When I was pregnant, this sounded lovely. Who wouldn’t want all the bonding time possible with their precious new baby? However, the night after Leo’s birth, I was exhausted, weak, and in so much pain, I could barely function. To add to this challenge, my husband and I both happen to be blind. There are thousands of blind parents across the United States who successfully care for their children each day, but being blind does often require us to concentrate more fully on what we’re doing. Doing things nonvisually, especially when you’re doing them for the first time, can require a little more physical and cognitive energy. However, I was just so physically exhausted and emotionally fried. All night long, the nurses kept getting me up to nurse and pump. I was so clumsy with exhaustion. I kept waiting for the point where they were going to insist that I get some sleep and recuperate, but that never came. It became clear to me that the only help the nurses were going to give us was to make sure that I was breastfeeding. When I wasn’t breastfeeding, the lactation consultants wanted the baby to sleep with me, so we could get lots of skin-to-skin. This only ensured that I continued to get no sleep, because I just couldn’t get physically comfortable sleeping with the baby in the hospital bed and I was anxious about crushing him or pushing him off the bed somehow. (This concern may have been unfounded, but the fact was, I wasn’t physically comfortable sleeping with him; my husband and I had never wanted to co-sleep; and I just wanted to get some real rest.)

Because my son was born slightly premature, we spent 4 nights in the hospital with him. About 48 hours after his birth, my husband ran home to get some more clothes for us. I was alone in our room with the baby. While I was breastfeeding him, I fell asleep. A doctor woke me up some time later. The door to my room was wide open. I was sitting up in bed, with my hospital gown completely unbuttoned and my breasts just hanging out with Leo asleep across my lap. I was so freaked out. It was only good luck that he hadn’t fallen off the bed head first. I had fallen asleep sometime in the seconds between unbuttoning my hospital gown and putting Leo to my breast.

I was so upset that I finally broke down crying in front of the doctor. “I’m so tired. This is so hard,” was all I could say.

The doctor, who was a young intern or resident, had the following compassionate response: “What did you expect? Being a parent is hard,” he said.

Even at that time, before I had had time to fully process his comment, I thought, “Wow; thank you for that kind, professional and empathetic response. Is that what they taught you to say at medical school? Here I am in obvious psychological distress and that’s the help you give me?”

As the days wore on, it became abundantly clear that most of the staff didn’t care how I was doing physically or psychologically, as long as our breastfeeding was progressing nicely. My husband was as exhausted as I was and Leo had arrived 6 weeks early, so my mother had not been able to fly from Florida to California right after the birth as planned. You would have to know me to know how completely out of character this was for me to do, but as I was on the phone talking to my mom, I started crying and begging her to fly out to Sacramento right away. “I need somebody here who cares about ME!” Continue reading