Caroline Koen talks about her breastfeeding experience and how the pressure and guilt to breastfeed contributed to postpartum depression. She talks about how a more relaxed attitude about breastfeeding ultimately led to a more positive breastfeeding experience.
By Pam Floyd, Mother and Fed is Best Advocate
Twenty-five years ago, Chaz, the son of Pam Floyd, was born and developed hypernatremic dehydration from insufficient breast milk intake while exclusively breastfeeding. Chaz developed brain injury from dehydration and now lives disabled with cerebral palsy. Their story was published on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. She was subsequently interviewed on 20/20, which prompted a similar feature on ABC’s Prime Time Live. Pam contacted the Fed is Best Foundation to share her story again to warn mothers of the dangers of insufficient feeding.
“25 Year Anniversaries Should Be Celebrated Not Served As A Warning”
Twenty-five years ago my son almost died. He was only six days old. I had chosen to breastfeed, as everyone around me kept reminding me that ‘breast is best.’ So I followed their advice, and I exclusively breastfed. Even though I felt like something wasn’t quite right those first few days, everyone assured me everything was fine. The nurses in the maternity ward suggested that since I was a new mother, I wasn’t able to appreciate how much he was getting. The home health nurse that visited me, courtesy of my health insurance, the day after I left the hospital, reassured me that as long as he was getting six to seven wet diapers a day, then he was getting enough. And the nurses in my pediatrician’s office told me not to worry, that he was a big baby that he would eat when he got hungry. And my personal favorite, “the great thing about breast milk is that you never have to worry about how much or how little he’s getting. Because he’ll always get what he needs.” Well, that works great, if your milk comes in. My colostrum wasn’t enough for my son, Chaz. And my body never produced enough milk to keep a 10 lb. 4 oz. baby boy healthy.
Then when my son’s eyes started rapidly zig-zagging back and forth on that sixth day of life and I called the pediatrician’s office to tell them he was having a seizure, they told me that I didn’t know what I was talking about and that sometimes newborn’s eyes do that as they often wander. Well, the pediatrician finally agreed to see us. We were immediately sent to the emergency room. Then we were transferred to the children’s hospital. There, my son was put into a drug-induced coma until his seizures were under control. His diagnosis was a stroke due to hypernatremic dehydration. Children’s Hospital had me use their hospital grade breast pumps those first few days. The most I ever pumped was 3 cc’s. About a teaspoon. Usually, I just came back with mist. Or what looked like spit. There was never milk. I never got engorged. I never leaked. There was never any milk.
I got mad about this. Especially when I found out that it can and does happen regularly. It didn’t show up in any of my baby books or videos. So I called our local newspaper, The Virginian Pilot, and asked them to write an article about it, they did, it was called, “Mother Knows Best.” That was later revived by a journalist from The Wall Street Journal in an article entitled, “Dying for Milk: Some Mothers, Trying In Vain to Breast-Feed, Starve Their Infants — `Yuppie Syndrome’ Among Well-Meaning Parents Stems From Bad Advice — A Generation of Perfectionists.” We made the front page with that one. Of course, that set off a media frenzy.
by Sarah Cunningham
As a new mom who did not successfully breastfeed, I have so often felt like a lesser mother over the past 9 months, self-conscious whenever someone has asked me, “Are you still breastfeeding?” Or, my favorite follow-up question, “Oh no, what happened!?” I have heard so many references to breastfeeding that at times I have felt as though mothering is breastfeeding– and because I am not doing so, I must certainly be less of a mom.
Like for many others, the “breast is best” mantra-turned-guilt-trip started for me before my daughter was even born. In my last group prenatal meeting, one woman said she planned to feed her baby formula, but felt like the healthcare community would only give her information on breastfeeding.
After a deafening silence, the lactation consultant said, “that’s because we now know that breast milk is better.” And as if that icy tidbit wasn’t enough, she went on to caution, “I will just warn you that this is a very pro-breastfeeding area.” I swallowed hard, internalizing this information as a non-negotiable item, like so many women must do.
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
Every day we hear stories from parents who were able to feed their babies safely and confidently with our help. These stories are the fuel that fills our hearts and motivates our volunteers and advocates to continue our important work to teach parents and healthcare providers about safe infant feeding, and giving babies what they need to thrive and have the best possible start.
#fedisbest #safebreastfeeding #thrivingisbest #fedismaximum
Read on for their words of thanks and encouragement:
Do you have a #fedisbest story? We’d love to hear from you. Send us your stories.
There are many ways you can support the mission of the Fed is Best Foundation. Please consider contributing in the following ways:
- Join the Fed is Best Volunteer group to help us reach Obstetric Health Providers
- Make a donation to the Fed is Best Foundation.We do not accept donations from breast- or formula-feeding companies and 100% of your donations go toward these operational costs. All the work of the Foundation is achieved via the pro bono and volunteer work of its supporters.
- Share the stories and the message of the Fed is Best Foundation through word-of-mouth, by posting on your social media page and by sending our resources to expectant moms that you know. Share the Fed is Best campaign letter with everyone you know.
- Write a letter to your health providers and hospitals about the Fed is Best Foundation. Write them about feeding complications your child may have experienced.
- Print out our letter to obstetric providers and mail them to your local obstetricians, midwives, family practitioners who provide obstetric care and hospitals.
- Write your local elected officials about what is happening to newborn babies in hospitals and ask for legal protection of newborn babies from underfeeding and of mother’s rights to honest informed consent on the risks of insufficient feeding of breastfed babies.
- Send us your stories. Share with us your successes, your struggles and every thing in between. Every story saves another child from experiencing the same and teaches another mom how to safely feed her baby. Every voice contributes to change.
- Send us messages of support. We work every single day to make infant feeding safe and supportive of every mother and child. Your messages of support keep us all going.
- Shop and Fed is Best Foundation will earn cash back! We hope to develop our online safe infant feeding classes with these funds.
- If you need support, we have a private support group – Join
We believe all babies deserve to be protected from hunger and thirst every single day of their life and we believe that education on Safe Infant Feeding should be free. If you would like to make a donation to support the Fed is Best Foundation’s mission to teach every parent Safe Infant Feeding, please consider making a one-time or recurring donation to our organization.
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 to 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
By Mandy Dukovan, MS, MFT, Marriage and Family Therapist, Fed is Best Foundation Senior Advisor
It’s incredibly hard to put into words all the things that The Fed Is Best Foundation has done for me the past year. I happened to stumble upon the Foundation when I noticed a friend of mine “liked” one of their blog posts. I was a first-time mom who was struggling with many different feelings and wasn’t sure who or where to turn to. My son was 2 months at the time and was just beginning to thrive after I had begun to supplement him with formula. While I was so happy to see my baby finally gaining weight and thriving, I had haunting memories and raw emotions that I was struggling to sort out. I had immense guilt that I didn’t see the signs that my baby was hungry, which tortured me non-stop. I was embarrassed that I could look at his 1-month picture and now see that he was obviously malnourished, but how on earth did I miss this at the time?
I was angry that I didn’t follow my own instincts that something was wrong with him and was angry that I believed all the terrible things I was told from lactivists that would happen to him if I gave him a drop of formula. I worried that we would not have the kind of bond that babies who were exclusively breastfed (EBF) experienced with their mothers. I now know that our bond is so much stronger because we bottle-fed him and no longer experienced the immense stress that came each time I tried to breastfeed my baby. I got to a point where I dreaded even trying to breastfeed him, but I was told that was the best thing I could do for my baby, so I kept going, at the expense of my baby’s health and my well-being. I honestly believed I was the only mother who had experienced what we went through because I only heard the stories about how amazing and natural breastfeeding was and every mother could breastfeed if only she tried hard enough.
Since I am a therapist, I knew I needed to share my story. I found courage in my strong desire for other babies and mothers not to struggle. I also found courage in the fact that I needed a reason for all of the suffering—I needed to know that Brock’s struggle was not in vain. I kept telling myself, “If I reach even one mother and prevent even one baby from suffering like Brock, then I have to do this.”
My daughter, “little L,” was born a healthy 8.8 pounds, exactly on her due date in late September, several years ago. Like most new moms, I had spent all 9 months months studying up for my new job as a parent. And all the literature out there agreed that “Breast is Best!”. I read and believed the unfounded claims that children who were exclusively BF had higher IQs, and were healthier than formula fed babies. I read that I should NEVER, under any circumstances, feed my child formula. I decided to leave work and stay home for a solid 6 months to exclusively breastfeed. After all, the books and doctors made it sound so magical, easy, and most of all, crucial. I had no idea what I was in for.
My problems were not related to supply. My milk came in roughly 8 hours after she was born, and by the time I left the hospital, I had enough milk to feed a village. (Her growth stayed in the 90th percentile for that entire year.) My problems were depression, loneliness, and sleepless nights, all stemming from the unbearable pain I had with breastfeeding.
When I left the hospital, I had several blood blisters already on both nipples, and at home, my nipples became black and blue and cracked. They were open sores that bled constantly. I went without a shirt for a month, basically becoming a shut-in because wearing a shirt was excruciating. I couldn’t even shower because of the pain.
I have been praised in pro-breastfeeding groups for my tenacity. For overcoming overwhelming odds. For persisting when others would have “given up.” Along the way there were people who told me that I should just feed formula, that I should just stop breastfeeding because of the horrible experiences I was having, but I honestly thought those people were just misinformed. I never thought that formula was bad, horrible, or poison, but I honestly thought that I should keep going. It wasn’t until I broke down crying in front of my midwife with my second child, my second bout of severe PPD, and my second struggle to breastfeed (26 months into my parenting journey) that a medical professional or breastfeeding support person told me that my mental health was more important for my child than my milk. And I don’t think I will ever forget that moment.
My first pregnancy was textbook. Very uneventful. I took the classes, read the books, had supplies, had supportive friends, ordered my pump. I had heard it was very important that I not have any formula in the house because it might be “tempting” and that babies shouldn’t get bottles until 6 weeks, so I had no bottles and no formula.
My baby arrived at 36 weeks, 6 pounds 5 oz and quite healthy for a preemie. I was encouraged to supplement with formula from birth because we were afraid he wouldn’t be able to latch and suckle properly. I used a nipple shield because of my flat nipples. I wasn’t even 2 hours postpartum the first time I was hooked up to a pump to get a drop or two of colostrum which got smeared on baby’s lips. We spent the first week in and out of the NICU and on and off phototherapy for jaundice. By 3 weeks old, he was diagnosed with severe GERD, and we cut dairy and soy.
I triple fed for 3 months, every feed taking 1.5 hours if my husband could help, 2 hours if I was home alone. I woke my baby to feed every 3 hours for the first 5 weeks. I took all the galactogogues. I took prescription drugs that I really shouldn’t have taken because I have a cardiac condition and aren’t even approved by the FDA. Continue reading
My breastfeeding relationship seemed like it was going to be perfect from the start—I had no problem producing colostrum, my milk came in while in the hospital, my daughter latched on easily, and she had a very strong suck. The pediatrician even told me not to tell people how easy it was for us because “other moms would be jealous”. My daughter was back up to birth weight by the end of her first week.
Although my daughter had wet diapers and was nursing well, she would spit up, quite often and something was stopping her from continuing to gain weight. When I took her to the pediatrician’s office multiple times, none of the doctors were concerned by the amount she spit up. They all said that I couldn’t know how much it truly was. Let me tell you something, though, watching my daughter choke and vomit all of her breast milk, I knew that she was spitting up too much. She was born above the 95th percentile but rapidly dropped her weight. Continue reading