Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Speaks Out About The Dangerous And Deadly Practices Of The BFHI

by Christine K.

When the Fed Is Best Foundation was launched two years ago, a few nurses sent us messages about their experiences working in a Baby-Friendly Hospital Intiative (BFHI) hospital. They shared common concerns about watching exclusively breastfed babies crying out in hunger from not enough colostrum while being refused supplementation just so that high exclusive breastfeeding rates were met. Two years later, we now receive messages from nurses, physicians, lactation consultants and other health professionals, regularly. They express their concerns while asking for patient educational resources. They tell us their stories and they need support and direction on what to do about unethical and dangerous practices they are forced to take part in. We collected their stories and are beginning a blog series on health professionals who are now speaking out about the Baby Friendly Health Initiative (BFHI) and the WHO Ten Steps of Breastfeeding.

Christine K. is a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner currently working in a BFHI Hospital with 25 years of experience. She has worked in both BFHI and non-BFHI hospitals and talks about her concerns about taking care of newborns in the Baby-Friendly setting.

Regarding Unsafe Skin-To-Skin Practices

In BFHI facilities, skin-to-skin is mandated. The protocol calls for skin-to-skin at birth, for the first hour, then ongoing until discharge. New mothers are constantly told that it is important for bonding, for breastfeeding, for milk production and for temperature regulation of the newborn. Baby baths are delayed for skin-to-skin time and nurses are required to document in detail the skin-to-skin start and end times. There is no education on safety regarding skin-to-skin time, only that it is to be done. I have been responsible for the resuscitation of babies who coded while doing skin-to-skin. One died, and the other baby is severely disabled. Mothers are not informed of the risks of constant and unsupervised skin-to-skin time. Mothers have complained to me that they felt forced to do skin-to-skin to warm up their cold or hypoglycemic infant because they are told skin-to-skin time will help their infant resolve these issues when in fact it doesn’t. There is also no assessment of the mother’s comfort level with constant skin-to-skin. It’s very discouraging to hear staff say things like, “That mother refused to do skin-to-skin,” like it was a crime or an act of child abuse. The judgement is harsh on mothers who fail to follow the protocol. I have noticed that partners are pushed to the side, especially in the first hour of life, not being able to hold their newborn, due to this strict policy. Their involvement has been discounted in the name of the exclusive breastfeeding protocol. Continue reading

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Nurses Are Speaking Out About The Dangers Of The Baby-Friendly Health Initiative

When the Fed Is Best Foundation was launched two years ago, a few nurses sent us messages  about their experiences working in a BFHI hospital. Some of the nurses felt comfortable speaking out because they left their jobs or retired early, as they did not want to be part of the restrictive breastfeeding policies that were implemented. They shared common concerns of watching exclusively breastfed babies being refused supplementation,while babies were crying out in hunger from not enough colostrum which resulted in NICU admissions.

Two years later, we now receive messages from nurses, physicians, LC’s and other health professionals, regularly.  They express their concerns while asking for help and for patient resources. They tell us their stories and they need support and direction of what to do about unethical and dangerous practices they are forced to practice. We collected their stories and are beginning a blog series of health professionals who are now speaking out about the Baby Friendly Health Initiative and the WHO Ten Steps of Breastfeeding. Continue reading

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“Is Baby-Friendly Safe?”: BFHI Safety Issues Discussed at National Neonatology Conference

Las Vegas, Nevada — On September 6, 2018, the national neonatology conference, “The Fetus and Newborn Conference” was held in Las Vegas, Nevada. Among the speakers was Jay Goldsmith, M.D., Neonatologist and Professor of Pediatrics at Tulane University, Member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on the Fetus and Newborn who gave a talk entitled, “Is Baby-Friendly Baby Safe?”

In the talk, he discussed the case of an Oregon woman who has filed an $8.6 million lawsuit against her hospital, Portland Adventist Medical Center, and a nurse who cared for her and her baby after accidentally suffocating her newborn after falling asleep with him in her hospital bed. According to the Washington Post, she had delivered her son by cesarean section a few days earlier and was given narcotic pain medication and sleep aids. A nurse gave her newborn to her while she was still drowsy and groggy to breastfeed in her hospital bed. About an hour after being left to breastfeed, the baby was found gray, not breathing with compromised vital signs in the mother’s arms after which he was rushed to the nursery. The baby received CPR and was put on life support but the child sustained severe and permanent brain injury. He ultimately died at 10 days of age. Continue reading

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Response to Baby-Friendly USA Regarding Rates of Hyperbilirubinemia Among Exclusively Breastfed Newborns

Christie del Castillo-Hegyi, M.D. and Jody Segrave-Daly, RN, IBCLC

We at the Fed Is Best Foundation give mothers across the globe a platform to tell their stories about how their babies suffered needlessly because they were denied information and supplementation for their hungry babies while under the care of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative/WHO Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding protocol. Our Foundation has grown rapidly and demands significantly more time than we currently have because we are a 100% volunteer organization.  We are inundated with messages from mothers, health professionals and media on a daily basis. We try very hard to prioritize what we can do collectively, every single day. Our first priority is to respond to mothers in crisis who contact us needing assistance on how to safely feed their distressed breastfed baby because they were not educated on appropriate supplementation. Baby Friendly USA (BFUSA) found time to critique our interpretation of studies and written materials, so we were forced to take time away from mothers to update written materials and clarify our interpretations. Our goal is to be completely transparent and we have provided our detailed response below with corrections and clarifications given publicly available published data. If there have been errors in interpretation of published information, then we go back to the original published data to provide better data for the public, which we have done below. We believe we have a responsibility to inform parents, the public, medical insurance companies and BFHI hospitals about the risks of exclusive breastfeeding when insufficient. We believe parents deserve to know that the BFHI has an exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) threshold mandate to meet if the hospital wants to remain credentialed. The mandate results in tens of thousands of newborn admissions every year in the U.S. alone, which we chronicle on our page. For the safety of infants across the globe, we will continue to provide education on how to recognize serious complications of exclusive breastfeeding and how every parent can prevent them.

Starvation jaundice (hyperbilirubinemia) of the newborn is defined as abnormally high bilirubin in a newborn who loses >8-10% weight. It is caused by insufficient elimination of bilirubin due to insufficient caloric intake from exclusive breastfeeding in the first week of life. This well-established phenomenon has been discussed by neonatologist Dr. Lawrence Gartner, who is listed as a Director on the Baby-Friendly USA website, in a lecture given to lactation consultants (not just physicians and nurses as stated by BFUSA) at a 2013 California Breastfeeding Conference, previously posted on their website. This public lecture was provided to educate lactation consultants regarding dangerous levels of jaundice that can occur in previously healthy breastfed babies that result from inadequate intake of calories from exclusive breastfeeding. Under Fair Use laws, dissemination of educational material for non-profit educational purposes is protected and we were subsequently asked to post the full lecture by Dr. Gartner via email. The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine jaundice protocol acknowledges that exclusively breastfed newborns are at higher risk of hyperbilirubinemia from insufficient milk intake (“suboptimal intake”) and excessive weight loss. The vast majority of newborn hyperbilirubinemia is caused by starvation jaundice. Their protocol also states that 98% of kernicterus, or the most severe form of brain injury from jaundice, occurs in breastfed newborns. Nearly all of starvation jaundice can be prevented with timely and adequate supplementation. Nearly all newborns with starvation jaundice show signs of poor feeding including excessive crying and frequent, unsatisfied nursing or lethargy before they develop levels of hyperbilirubinemia that result in impaired brain development. While BFUSA has not previously denied the increased risk of hyperbilirubinemia in breastfed newborns, they have not routinely disclosed them to parents or subscribing hospitals, which has the unfortunate effect of causing hospitalizations that would have been prevented by supplementing a crying underfed newborn. Unfortunately, many parents and health professionals are taught that the signs of poor feeding including crying and hours of unsatisfied nursing are normal, widely known as the “Second Night Syndrome.” These unfortunately are also the earliest signs of other complications like acute bilirubin encephalopathy, kernicterus, hypernatremic dehydration and hypoglycemia, all known causes of brain injury and permanent disability, which can occur if those signs are overlooked as normal and supplementation is avoided in order to meet the goal of exclusive breastfeeding.

Continue reading

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WHO 2017 Revised Guidelines Provide No Evidence to Justify Exclusive Breastfeeding Rule While Evidence Supports Supplemented Breastfeeding

Christie del Castillo-Hegyi, M.D.

The WHO health policy that has been responsible for millions of preventable hospital admissions of newborns for insufficient feeding complications is Step 6 of the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding: “Give no additional food or fluid other than breast milk unless medically indicated.” Complications of insufficient feeding from exclusive breastfeeding before copious milk production are now among the leading causes of newborn extended and repeat hospitalization, namely jaundice (hyperbilirubinemia), dehydration and hypoglycemia.

In 2017, the World Health Organization published its guidelines updating its recommendations for “Protecting, Promoting and Supporting Breastfeeding in Facilities Providing Maternity and Newborn Services,” which outlines the evidence for the WHO recommendations on breastfeeding support for newborns in health facilities based on the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding. Here is the evidence presented to justify the recommendation to avoid supplementation in breastfed newborns.

The WHO guidelines authors went on to conclude the following:

How did very low quality of evidence turn into moderate quality evidence for exclusive breastfeeding particularly when the evidence showed improvement of breastfeeding rates in supplemented breastfed newborns? Continue reading

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Jillian Johnson: My Message To Parents During World Breastfeeding Week

By Jillian Johnson

It took all of the courage I had to put aside the debilitating amount of guilt I carried for five long years to tell Landon’s story—his birth, the first days of his life and how he died. In fact, I still don’t know where I found that courage, but I am convinced Landon gave me the strength. I wasn’t prepared for the intense scrutiny my story received. I was utterly shocked because people came out of nowhere to discredit my story with a vengeance, but I quickly learned how to be gracious in such a vulnerable time.

After all, nothing anyone could say to me could hurt me more than the death of my newborn baby.

I can remember a very specific time, when I was sitting in the waiting room of the hospital and Landon was on life support. My dad was there with me and we were talking about Landon’s prognosis and I won’t ever forget him telling me what a special little boy he was and that he would do great things. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around what his words meant because Landon was most likely going to pass away, and my dad was talking about how he’s going to do great things. I never dreamed that his death would change the lives of so many people across the globe. Continue reading

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Hypernatremic Dehydration is Common and Occurs to a Third of Healthy Newborns

Christie del Castillo-Hegyi, M.d.

Newborn hypernatremia is a serious complication of early exclusive breastfeeding of newborns caused by insufficient feeding of milk. It is defined as an elevation of blood sodium levels (≥ 145 mEq/L) in response to insufficient fluid intake and most commonly occurs at day 3-4 of life, typically the point of greatest weight loss of a newborn. It is the most severe complication of dehydration and excessive weight loss and increases the risk of brain injury, developmental delay/disability, seizure disorder, vital organ injury and death. Oddie et al. showed that up to 98% of hypernatremia occurs in exclusively or near-exclusively breastfed newborns and the study group found the diagnosis of hypernatremia was rare.[1] However, since blood sodium levels are not universally-screened, which could result in missed cases of hypernatremia, it has been unclear just how common the condition is among newborns.

Steph Montgomery’s daughter jaundiced, dehydrated and hypernatremic at day 5 with 20% weight loss due to insufficient breast milk intake from low supply

A recently published prospective study of 165 healthy newborns ≥ 35 weeks gestational age looked at rates of hypernatremia (>145 mEq/L) in the first 3 days of life.[2] They examined multiple variables that predict hypernatremia as well as the threshold weight loss values at which increased hypernatremia risk occurs. The results were astounding.

The study found that out of 165 newborns 51 or 30.9% developed hypernatremia.

The majority of cases occurred by 5% weight loss, the lowest percentage weight loss occurring at 4.77% weight loss, especially for male infants delivered by cesarean delivery to a mother with higher education level. Continue reading

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Thank You to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists for Supporting All Mothers

To the Leadership of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists:

We want to thank Dr. Christopher Zahn, Vice President of Practice Activities for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists for responding to our letter regarding safe support of breastfeeding in the newborn period and inclusive support of all mother’s informed infant feeding choices.

We thank you for endorsing that Obstetrician-Gynecologists and midwives provide counseling on when a mother should seek help regarding breastfeeding problems. We are encouraged by your support of providers maintaining knowledge and skills on normal breastfeeding physiology and management of breastfeeding complications, including anticipatory pre-hospital discharge feeding guidance for mothers on those matters. We, too, feel that providing mothers the tools to recognize safe and unsafe conditions in their infants during the course of breastfeeding is critical to providing safe and ethical breastfeeding support. Most of all, we are so grateful for ACOG’s recommendation that Obstetrician-Gynecologists and other obstetric care providers support each woman’s informed decision about what form of infant feeding is best for her child, whether it be exclusive breastfeeding, mixed feeding or formula feeding.  We, too, believe that mothers are uniquely qualified to determine what optimal nutrition looks like for her child depending on breast milk supply, anatomy, infant nutritional needs and the complex social, psychological and economic realities of the family unit. We, too, believe that supporting and respecting a mother’s safe infant feeding choices is paramount to fulfilling our core responsibilities as health providers.

Thank you for your continued support of mothers and their infants as well as the health providers that care for them.

Sincerely,

Christie del Castillo-Hegyi, MD and Jody Segrave-Daly, RN, IBCLC, Co-Founders and The Fed is Best Foundation

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My Baby Starved at Kaiser Permanente – I Was Told Her Stomach Size Was Only 5 mL

My name is Cynthia G., a first time mom at the age of 39 with our miracle baby who we never expected since we were told we had “unexplained” infertility. Our daughter Amelia was born in 2016 at Kaiser Permanente in Irvine, California. I didn’t have a birth plan nor was I one of those moms-to-be that had it all planned out and knew every detail about having a child or going into labor. But what I did know was that I intended to breastfeed our daughter.

We were very happy with Kaiser’s baby-friendly approach and their pride of being one of the hospitals with a very high breastfeeding rate. We were told from the beginning that bottles and pacifiers were not allowed in the hospital so that the newborns and mothers had a chance to breastfeed. Of course, this information was never a red flag, but instead I found it to be another step towards encouraging breastfeeding. We even took the breastfeeding class they offered, but again we thought we were in good hands with great experts and completely trusted them. Continue reading

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Breastfeeding, Supplemental feeding, Formula-Feeding, Fed is Best

Letter to Doctors and Parents About the Dangers of Insufficient Exclusive Breastfeeding and the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative

(En español)

Dear Colleague and Parent:

My name is Christie del Castillo-Hegyi and I am an emergency physician, former NIH scientist, with a background in newborn brain injury research at Brown University, and mother to a 6-year-old child who is neurologically disabled. I am writing you because my child fell victim to newborn jaundice, hypoglycemia and severe dehydration due to insufficient milk intake from exclusive breastfeeding in the first days of life. As an expectant mom, I read all the guidelines on breastfeeding my first-born child. Unfortunately, following the guidelines and our pediatrician’s advice resulted in my child going 4 days with absolutely no milk intake requiring ICU care. He was subsequently diagnosed with multiple neuro-developmental disabilities.  Being a physician and scientist, I sought out peer-reviewed journals to explain why this happened. I found that there is ample evidence showing the links between neonatal jaundice, dehydration, hypoglycemia and developmental disabilities. I wish to explain to you how I believe this could apply to my son and the many children whose care you are entrusted with. Continue reading

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