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:
- MICH-23 – Reduce the proportion of breastfed newborns who receive formula supplementation within the first 2 days of life.
- 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 Objectives||Baseline (%)||Target (%)|
|Increase the proportion of infants who are breastfed (MICH 21)|
|At 6 months||43.5*||60.6|
|At 1 year||22.7*||34.1|
|Exclusively through 3 months||33.6*||46.2|
|Exclusively through 6 months||14.1*||25.5|
|Increase the proportion of employers that have worksite lactation support programs (MICH 22)||25†||38|
|Reduce the proportion of breastfed newborns who receive formula supplementation within the first 2 days of life (MICH 23)||24.2*||14.2|
|Increase the proportion of live births that occur in facilities that provide recommended care for lactating mothers and their babies (MICH 24)||2.9‡||8.1|
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.
Christie del Castillo-Hegyi, M.D.
Another day, another distortion pushed by supporters of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, who no longer have any reasonable justification for endangering newborns with their policies, namely policies that increase the risk of accidental suffocation, newborn falls and starvation-related brain injury from strict exclusive breastfeeding promotion. Never in the history of Western medicine have we had decades of scientific evidence that a public health policy increases the risk of brain injury, disability and death in infants while millions of dollars are used to promote the policies’ “benefits” while actively suppressing knowledge of its risks. Since they no longer have any defense for their unsafe practices, they use the old and tired argument that anyone who criticizes or raises awareness on the safety issues of their policies must be funded and influenced by formula industry.
The most recent attempt to suppress the opinions of its critics occurred on December 18, 2018 when Women’s eNews published a highly biased and inaccurate article aimed at discrediting one of the BFHI’s critics, Dr. Ronald Kleinman, who published an editorial along with two other pediatricians, Dr. Joel Bass and Dr. Tina Gartley, in the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics regarding the serious safety issues associated with the BFHI protocol, entitled, Unintended Consequences of Current Breastfeeding Initiatives.
One of those risks they discussed is the risk of accidental suffocation and newborn falls during prolonged skin-to-skin care and breastfeeding in hospitals. Multiple policies of the BFHI contribute to these devastating outcomes. The first is the recommendation that babies “room-in” 24/7 with mothers who are exhausted and sleep-deprived from hours and even days of labor, some of whom receiving pain medication for post-operative pain. Their sleep-deprivation is made worse by the requirement to have full responsibility for the care of the infant without respite. Step 6 of the BFHI guidelines states that breastfed newborns should receive no food or water other than breast milk, which commonly cause near continuously crying and nursing due to persistent hunger, a phenomenon widely known as “Second Night Syndrome.” Under these conditions, mothers have fallen asleep while breastfeeding their babies and doing prolonged, unsupervised skin-to-skin care, which in rare instances, have resulted in accidental suffocation of newborns, also known as Sudden Unexpected Postnatal Collapse. This has resulted in infant deaths and need for cardiopulmonary resuscitation, brain injury and lifelong disability among surviving infants. This phenomenon has become common enough to prompt the publication of an official American Academy of Pediatrics guideline entitled, “Safe Sleep and Skin-to-Skin Care in the Neonatal Period for Healthy Term Newborns,” which guides pediatricians on how to the reduce the risk of these complications among healthy, term newborns
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
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
Full video presentation available at Contemporary Forums Online.
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
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.
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
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
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. 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.
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. 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