My Son’s Life was Forever Changed Due to Insufficient Feeding While Exclusively Breastfeeding

By Pam Floyd

I am the mother of a 28-year-old who is neurologically and physically disabled. My son Chaz, fell victim to severe dehydration called hypernatremia due to insufficient milk intake from exclusive breastfeeding in the first days of life. I read breastfeeding books, watched breastfeeding videos, and studied every page of What to Expect. Unfortunately, following the advice of our lactation consultant and pediatrician’s advice resulted in Chaz going 6 days with absolutely no milk intake, requiring admission to the ICU and a drug-induced coma. Chaz was eventually diagnosed with seizures, developmental delay, and cerebral palsy.

When Chaz was born, he was a healthy 10 pounds 4 ounces. I nursed him 20-30 minutes every 3 hours. Chaz produced the expected number of wet and dirty diapers. It didn’t take long for our routine to become feed, stop, make a smudged-up face. Grump a little. Then feed again.

When I mentioned my concerns about breastfeeding to the lactation consultant that visited us on day 3, she mentioned that he had a good stool. So, I must be doing something right. Stools meant that he was getting what he needed.

She added, “the colostrum that he gets now is enough for him until your milk comes in, which should be 4 to 5 days.” But whatever I do, do not supplement. No bottle. No formula.

It didn’t matter to her that I felt like something wasn’t right. That my gut was screaming that breastfeeding wasn’t working. I couldn’t shake the feeling that he wasn’t getting enough. By the time the weekend was over I had re-read my breastfeeding materials and re-watched my breastfeeding videos. We’d latched. But it got where he would feed for a minute or two then he’d turn his head away and fuss some more. The crying got louder each day. On day 3 the pediatrician’s office ensured me that everything was fine.

Don’t worry, he will eat when he gets hungry.

Breastfeeding takes.

I was asked if I had given him any formula. I said no. She said good…

Because baby formula is sweeter than breast milk and I might have a hard time getting him to breastfeed if I had given him formula.

By the 7th day, I was sure he hated me. He would take one look at my breasts and scream. He still had the correct number of diapers. I called the pediatrician again and was told…

You’re a new mother you don’t appreciate how much he is getting.

Besides with breastfeeding you never have to worry about how much he is getting.

When his eyes began zig-zagging an hour later. I called the pediatrician again to let them know he was having a seizure. I was told…

Newborns’ eyes sometimes do that. They tend to be unfocused. So they often wander.

My husband and I rushed him to the pediatrician despite their opinion of the problem. When we got there, we were told that he’d lost more than twenty percent of his birth weight.

I was so angry, not only had everyone ignored my concerns. But none of my baby books or videos mentioned the possibility of dehydration. Nor did the nurses, lactation consultants, hospital, or doctors tell me what to look out for.

My feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy were so strong and compounded with the stress of Chaz being in a drug-induced coma, I was infuriated because no one would listen to me. Not to mention it was preventing me from getting adequate sleep.

One thing I did know was that my mom instincts were spot on.

After I got out of my fog I took my story to our local paper, which was then picked up by The Wall Street Journal article, “Dying for Milk: Some Mothers, Trying in Vain to Breastfeed, Starve Their Infants,” as well as radio shows, and talk shows. I wanted to stop dehydration due to exclusive breastfeeding. 

That was 28 years ago. And it’s still happening. The medical community is still failing new moms. We’re told that if we don’t exclusively breastfeed then we’re bad people. I had several people tell me this when I purchased baby formula for Chaz.

I told this story to Fed is Best in a previous article. I’ve since written a detailed account of the experience in Mother Knows Best: A Memoir. According to Dr. Marianne Neifert, who was kind enough to write an Afterword for Chaz’s memoir. “Pam’s courageous conviction to share her story and highlight the controversial topic of breastfeeding tragedy has helped to spur many positive changes in hospital maternity care practices, to ensure the early follow-up and assessment of breastfed newborns, and to incorporate essential breastfeeding education in the training of health professionals.” I did what I could in 1993. But as I said it’s 28 years later and this is still going on. We need to continue to share our stories to prevent this from happening to other babies. And moms, always trust your instincts over others’ opinions. You may just save your child’s life.


Please support Pam Floyd in her mission to raise awareness about the dangers of newborn dehydration related to insufficient breast milk intake by purchasing her memoir, “Mother Knows Best,” by clicking on the link.

 

 

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The New Seven Letter “F” Word

As soon as the word “formula” rolls off your tongue and leaves your mouth for everyone to hear, uncomfortable silence occurs. Parents are reluctant to talk about or admit freely they feed their babies infant formula. Most are suffering from the deeply entrenched shame and judgment that is associated with formula feeding; they have experienced it first hand in countless social media parenting groups, from friends, their health care professionals, WIC offices, and even in their hospitals.

How did we get to the place where talking about infant formula is profoundly divisive, shameful, and anxiety provoking for parents? 

 Let’s face it, infant FORMULA is the new seven letter F word. The scarlet letter F.  FAILURE. 

I frequently receive questions from anxious parents who want to know if everything they have been told about formula feeding is true. They often convey feelings of failing their baby and question their worth as a parent who could not provide exclusive human milk. The emotional suffering they carry is the foremost reason why I wanted to write about the topic of infant formula shaming.

Is the current breastfeeding advocacy responsible?

One of the problems of our current breastfeeding promotion is it has characterized infant formula as a substandard or dangerous form of nutrition, by providing false and misleading claims. The Just One Bottle campaign was intended to persuade parents to avoid formula citing risks of formula that are mostly speculative. But the message of this campaign continues to be taught to parents daily. Promoting false and confusing medical information is grossly unprofessional, unethical, and reckless, as this false information has put infants’ and mothers’ lives at risk.

Avery’s life was one of them. She writes: I had more than enough support for breastfeeding, but very little support for switching to formula when I knew it was best for my own mental health, and for my son. I can’t fathom telling a mom she’d better breastfeed or might as well be dead. But I was told this—and I believed them. I remember being in the basement bathroom and looking up at the tiny window and thinking that would be the last thing I saw before I died. I was ready to go. 

Let’s take a look at an example of exaggerated and false formula feeding information:

After reading this pamphlet from WIC, I can understand why parents are panicking. The formula risk brochure is grossly inaccurate and false and specifically says:

40–50% will develop asthma 

Greater chance of dying from SIDS

40% are likely to be obese

More likely to get leukemia and other cancers

Higher risk of dying from diarrhea and lung infections

This educational pamphlet is one example of what parents receive about formula feeding risks from WIC, in California. Up to 50 percent of US families receive nutritional benefits for their babies from WIC and will receive similar education.

This is an example of how formula is described as junk food by a lactation consultant  

 

 

Sara writes : The main reason I used formula was that I didn’t make enough breast milk, and my daughter was starving. They always leave that one off when they lie to women about how “everyone can breastfeed.” When people say fed is minimum or formula is junk food, they make me feel ashamed that I have a medical condition, which is so messed up. If I had continued to exclusively breastfeed, my daughter would be dead. Formula saved her life. But any time I bring this up, I get told I didn’t try hard enough, or I didn’t actually have a low supply. It’s ableist and abusive.

Human milk is depicted as magical

Social media has elevated the status of human milk from desirable nutrition for babies into pure magic! Human milk can cure everything they say. A Google search yields countless treatments using human milk to cure eye infections, stretch marks, ear infections, diaper rash, cancer, and even COVID. But it can’t and doesn’t. 

Human milk doesn’t have to be a magical elixir to be valuable. Do you know what is magical? Inclusive infant feeding support free of shame and judgment. And oh, a 6 month paid maternity leave.

However, shaming infant formula is oh so easy. Shaming infant formula is the easy way out.  It’s cruel to shame infant formula when parents are unable to push through the barriers that exist. The decision between breastfeeding and formula feeding is increasingly complicated by the barriers that exist in the United States. In fact, many times a mother doesn’t have a choice whether she can exclusively breastfeed for 6 months. We need to remove the many barriers FIRST before breastfeeding promotion saddles parents with the burden of exclusive breastfeeding, while receiving abysmal support. But formula shaming is so much easier.

 

 

This is an example of what formula shaming does.

Laura writes:  At first, I felt like a total failure and could not understand why my breasts would not do what they were supposed to. I would sob as I fed her formula. But over time I saw how much she was thriving and I started to forgive myself. I truly believe supplementing and then exclusively formula feeding saved me from hurting myself and allowed me finally to love my baby.

In the US alone, 75% of babies will receive infant formula before the first 6 months of life.  Parents who are formula feeding require education about how to safely prepare and feed their babies formula, during a period of time when their brain and body are rapidly growing, when formula is their sole source of nutrition. Formula feeding parents deserve to be treated with respect and without any kind of shame or judgment.

Did you know there are no unbiased educational resources for formula feeding parents readily available like there are for breast/chestfeeding parents? Not. one. Parents are forced to figure out how to formula feed their babies all on their own, searching the web for self-proclaimed formula experts, or using formula industry–created resources. 

The demonizing of the F word has now driven formula feeding parents who are seeking support and education straight into the arms of Big Formula!

Just this week, a study tells us that “It is important to understand the messages caregivers are receiving directly from formula companies, whose websites are targeting pregnant women and new parents with marketing claims disguised as feeding advice and support.”

The study, led by researchers at the NYU School of Global Public Health and published in the journal Public Health Nutrition, is the first to compare information and portrayals of breastfeeding with infant formula feeding on manufacturer websites directed at U.S. consumers.

This leaves a significant number of parents who are being supported only by formula companies. This is a problem, not only for exclusively formula feeding families, but also for those who want to keep breastfeeding while also adding some formula into their routine. While parents have access to the experience and insight of their pediatricians, well-baby check ups are relatively brief and infrequent. Facing a whole grocery store aisle filled with different brands and types of formula, and unstandardized prices per ounce, parents often feel paralyzed and helpless. Formula companies thrive on this confusion, because it enables them to sway parents towards their brand and charge more money for attributes that have not been proven to be necessary for infant health. This is especially problematic for WIC recipients. Since WIC typically provides only one brand of formula in quantities that are not enough to fully meet infants’ needs, parents are often under the impression that they must buy more of the same brand, instead of the equally nutritious generic equivalent.

Parents often ask me why infant formula is despised by breastfeeding zealots and I wish I had an answer for them. Is it because they hate Nestlé and formula company marketing tactics? I get it. I do. I have no love for Big Formula and their ruthless tactics to sell their product. The difference between me and them is that I don’t hate their product and would never, ever call it substandard nutrition—because it isn’t. 

We can easily support breastfeeding while supporting formula feeding parents. I have done this every day of my professional life for the past 30 years. 

Silence and shame have no place in health care, and I encourage all health care professionals to talk about infant formula, so that parents can trust you with their questions to keep their babies safe. Otherwise, they will resort to finding answers to their questions by unqualified people or those with a profit motive. I encourage parents to talk about formula too, because there is nothing shameful about feeding your babies with a safe, healthy, scientifically formulated milk. 

Stay tuned as I begin my blogging series about safe infant formula feeding in an unbiased manner. I will be interviewing pediatricians, neonatologists, and food scientists to talk about infant formula, and giving you accurate information straight from the experts.

Jody Segrave-Daly, MS, RN, IBCLC

If you need infant feeding support, please join us here.


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

Breastfeeding Benefits: The Real, the Imagined, and the Exaggerated

The Shaming Began In My Hospital Breastfeeding Course And Never Stopped

Is Breast Milk Stealing The Spotlight Of A Novel Anti-Tumor Compound?

The Process of Healing from Infant Feeding Trauma, Guilt, and Shame: When You Wanted to Breastfeed, but Couldn’t

I Attempted Suicide From The Pressure Of Breast Is Best

I Was Having Suicidal Thoughts Because I Was Shamed For Not Making Enough Breast Milk For My Baby

Dear Chrissy Teigen, You Are Right; We Need To Destigmatize Formula Feeding Our Babies

What Happens When Mothers Are Told Being Fed Is The Bare Minimum?

I No Longer Judge Other Mothers; My Breastfeeding Challenges Have Absolutely Changed Me As a Mom, a Woman, And a Friend

 

 

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I HAVE SO MUCH REGRET NOT QUITTING BREASTFEEDING EARLIER; WE SUFFERED AND FEEL VERY LET DOWN BY PROFESSIONALS AROUND ME FOR BEING SO ANTI-FORMULA

Knowing now how many babies have been lost or suffered injury due to insufficient nutrition and dehydration in those early days, I feel so much anger towards those staff who dismissed my concerns, as we could so easily have gone the same way. By this point, my son’s urine was like brick dust and barely meeting the minimum frequency—but home we went, away from any medical supervision. 

It has taken me nearly three years to put this story into writing; despite watching my son grow into a happy and healthy little man, I could not revisit the trauma of his early months in my mind for a very long time, without feeling such strong emotions that it might as well have happened yesterday. Despite my difficulty telling this story, I wanted other mothers to hear it because I suspect I’m not alone in my experiences; and the more people who come forward with similar trauma, the more likely things are to change.

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I Have So Much Regret Not Quitting Breastfeeding Earlier; We suffered And Feel Very Let Down By Professionals Around Me For Being So Anti-Formula

Knowing now how many babies have been lost or suffered injury due to insufficient nutrition and dehydration in those early days, I feel so much anger towards those staff who dismissed my concerns, as we could so easily have gone the same way. By this point, my son’s urine was like brick dust and barely meeting the minimum frequency—but home we went, away from any medical supervision. 

It has taken me nearly three years to put this story into writing; despite watching my son grow into a happy and healthy little man, I could not revisit the trauma of his early months in my mind for a very long time, without feeling such strong emotions that it might as well have happened yesterday. Despite my difficulty telling this story, I wanted other mothers to hear it because I suspect I’m not alone in my experiences; and the more people who come forward with similar trauma, the more likely things are to change. 

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My Breastfed Baby Starved While Under The Care Of Health Professionals For 5 Weeks

My beautiful baby girl Mary-Kate was delivered by emergency c-section, and although there were complications during labor, she was healthy on arrival. Having done a bit of research and listened to the advice of professionals, as well as the threat of the global pandemic posing a risk, I decided I would breastfeed my daughter, to provide her with passive antibodies for COVID-19 from my milk.

I began exclusively breastfeeding in the hospital and the midwife said Mary-Kate had the perfect latch. I loved being a mummy, I could not stop looking at this beautiful little human me and my partner had created, but Mary-Kate was becoming increasingly unsettled. She was almost always attached to my breast and would fall asleep soon after latching on. I spoke to the health visitors, and we were told her crying was colic.  We began giving Mary-Kate lots of colic-type remedies. 

Each time somebody came to weigh her whether it be the GP, HV, or Midwife, Mary-Kate was not gaining and was in fact losing weight. I could not understand, because she was ALWAYS feeding. Nobody seemed alarmed by this. I was told to just keep trying, she might be a ‘slow starter’. Never once did they check to see what my milk supply was or how much she was getting. The professionals would leave, and I would carry on as normal. Baby attached to the breast, me trying to maintain some sort of order in the home, taking care of my personal needs and sleep. Mary-Kate would just cry and cry and cry unless asleep at my breast.  I was exhausted, I was falling asleep whilst holding my baby and I knew this presented its own risks.  Continue reading

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I Supplemented My Baby Until My Milk Came In And We Are Still Breastfeeding At 3 Months

My son will be three months old tomorrow, and I’m reflecting on our nursing journey with gratitude. I had infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss prior to having him, and (after two rounds of IVF and six embryo transfers), he was born at 35 weeks. So we had a lot working against us for successful breastfeeding, but I wanted to try breastfeeding and I was ready to advocate for myself and the baby if needed in the hospital, since I knew I had significant risk factors for delayed onset of milk. 

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The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative is The Worst Thing I Have Experienced in my 20 Years as a NICU Nurse

Dear Parents,

It’s taken me years to find the courage to contact the Fed is Best Foundation with my experiences of working in a baby-friendly hospital.  “Baby-Friendly” is the worst thing I have experienced in my 20 years as a NICU nurse. My colleagues and I have tried many times to express our concerns with the number of NICU admissions we receive. Eighty percent of our admissions are because of baby un-friendly protocols for hyperbilirubinemia, hypoglycemia, excessive weight loss, and dehydration in our hospital from insufficient breastfeeding. We are a small unit, and we have had around 150 plus admissions last year from insufficient feeding. Sadly, we’ve had bad outcomes.

Many of my colleagues are very frustrated….but others have drank the kool-aid—believing drops of colostrum are all the baby needs—which is blatantly false. The lactation nurses audit charts daily and report nurses for supplementing babies, then they go to moms’ rooms to reeducate them on the “dangers” of formula—another blatant lie. The nurses who are reported must have a counseling session with management for supposedly “overfeeding” and not following “baby-friendly” protocols. Continue reading

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I Dropped My Baby in a Baby-Friendly Hospital While I Was Alone Recovering from a Cesarean Section

Step 7 of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) policy requires parents to room in with their baby 24 hours a day immediately after delivery.

Mothers are commonly sleep-deprived and profoundly exhausted after labor and delivery, some laboring for > 24 hours, some recovering from major surgery. They are required to nurse and care for a newborn almost immediately after delivery with few exceptions. Maternal exhaustion has lead to tragic and preventable accidental newborn falls from bed and suffocation from falling asleep while breastfeeding in bed. These accidents have resulted in brain injury, severe disability, and rare deaths in previously healthy infants. The elimination of newborn nurseries by hospitals has increased as a result of the Baby-Friendly policy. These tragic events received the attention of pediatricians and the Neonatology Section of the American Academy of Pediatrics who has published their concerns in the medical journals of JAMA and JAMA Pediatrics and Pediatrics.

In this recent article that was published in pediatrics, In-hospital Neonatal Falls: An Unintended Consequence of Efforts to Improve Breastfeeding, falls that occur when caregivers fall asleep is a consistent theme in the reported series. In a review of patient safety data over a 9-year period, Wallace reported that 150 of 272 neonatal falls occurred after a caregiver fell asleep while holding the newborn.7 Several smaller series report that 36% to 66% of in-hospital neonatal falls involved caregivers falling asleep.1,3,4,12 Not surprisingly, these falls transpired most commonly during the night or early morning hours. Similar to our series, Galuska13 described 5 cases at a single center in which all neonates fell from their mothers’ arms in the early morning hours, continuing to implicate fatigue as a factor. Continue reading

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The Letter Not Only Protected Me; It Protected The Nurses Too

The Letter was from my psychiatrist. It was our way of beating a system that neither of us agreed with, or believed was good for my mental health. It provided protection for me to make decisions that went against the Baby-Friendly Hospital mandates. 

The amount of stuff a pregnant woman brings to the hospital for delivery gets progressively smaller, the more children she has. With my first child, I brought three bags; I ended up ignoring 90% of the contents and gave my husband fits when he loaded the car for the ride home. By the time I packed the hospital bag for my third child, everything fit neatly into a small duffel. Even then, I felt like I was overpacking. As long as I had a phone charger, some lip balm, and the Letter, I knew I’d be fine. 

The Letter was new; I didn’t have it for my other two birth experiences.  It was the result of a long, painful journey, and it embodied all of the knowledge I’d gained over the past several years. It represented a feeling of hope I carried with me as I walked onto the labor and delivery floor at my hospital. Things would be different this time. 

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Dr. Nicole King Warns About Dangers of Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative at USDA Dietary Guidelines Meeting

On August 11, 2020, Dr. Nicole King, Anesthesiologist, Critical Care Intensivist, Patient Safety Expert and Senior Advisor to the Fed is Best Foundation spoke at the USDA Scientific Report of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee meeting warning of the dangers and patient rights violations of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative. Watch her address below.

Good afternoon, my name is Nicole King and I am a mother and a physician.  As an anesthesiologist and intensive care physician, I am faced with life and death circumstances every day.  In no way did I ever consider breastfeeding my child would be as stressful as supporting a COVID patient through their critical illness.  Five years ago, I realized how wrong I was.

As a new mother who had had a breast reduction and a physician, I should have known better, but I did not. I fed into the same propaganda, misinformation and fervor around breastfeeding that has grown over the last 30 years as a result of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative and the WHO’s Ten Steps [to Successful Breastfeeding]. I was not informed of its risks and followed the exclusive breastfeeding guidelines, and as a result, my newborn lost excessive weight and was readmitted for dehydration and jaundice.

The current USDA guidelines are filled with the same soft science riddled by confounding factors, that has led to the shaming of women who are unable to exclusively breastfeed for 6 months. The guidelines are an ableist and elitist narrative and read as an invitation to admonish women for failing to produce enough milk for her child. It blatantly ignores research that clearly shows that delayed lactogenesis of mature milk is common, found in up to 40% of first-time mothers and 22% of all mothers, even those who are motivated to exclusively breastfeed.  Never mind the 15% of women who are incapable of sustaining breastfeeding past the first month, even with lactation support.

If you are ill and in the hospital, nutritionists are there to calculate the calories needed to feed you in order for you to thrive and recover. Why then are we so easily fooled into thinking an infant who is building muscle, fat and brain cells can be sustained on far less than their caloric needs, purported by the Baby-Friendly policy? If the “biological norm” is put forth as a reason to exclusively breastfeed, then why are exclusively breastfed infants being admitted daily for dehydration, jaundice, and hypoglycemia? Why do we continue to insist on a policy that increases the risk of harm to infants while vilifying supplementation that prevents serious complications? Every day, I protect my patients with medications, machines and nutritional alternatives to overcome so many failures of the “biological norm.” I do this because I too am human and understand that we care and love for each other regardless of our ability to live up to a standard of perfection. Yet we allow babies to become seriously ill by pressuring mothers to achieve this standard of perfection that millions cannot safely achieve. If judicious and humane supplementation is the difference between a hospitalized and a safely breastfed child, then we have failed all mothers and infants in this country by disparaging its use.

The USDA draft policy continues to ignore these realities and thus fails to protect countless infants.  National guidelines should never encourage a policy that is directly responsible for the leading cause of rehospitalization of healthy term infants. And most importantly, as a national guideline, it should apply to all mothers, regardless of her ability to breastfeed, across all socioeconomic demographics.

As a mother who followed these guidelines and was led to rehospitalize her own infant, I beg you to consider the plight of all mothers and infants in this country. Every infant deserves to be protected from hospitalization and the complications of an exclusive breastfeeding policy.   And their mothers deserve to know that breast milk is but one way to best nourish their children.  The USDA is responsible for every child in the US and their policy should reflect this responsibility.


Dr. Nicole King, M.D. is a patient safety expert and Senior Advisor of the Fed is Best Foundation. She is a board-certified anesthesiologist and critical care intensivist.

Hospital Drops Baby-Friendly Program After Doctor’s Baby Was Harmed

Baby-Friendly: Failure and the Art of Misdirection

Information for Hospitals: Ensuring Safety for Breastfed Newborns

Fed is Best Statement to the USDA Regarding the Harms of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative

 

 

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