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.

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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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Fed is Best Foundation Response to U.S. Delegation Actions at the World Health Assembly

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

The Fed is Best Foundation is dedicated to ensuring safe infant feeding for every single child, a goal that can be achieved with exclusive breastfeeding, combination feeding, exclusive formula feeding and tube-feeding. We have no political affiliation. We support all mothers to help their infant thrive with safe, sufficient and sustainable feeding in order to protect their health and optimize brain development. Recent news has broken about the U.S. delegation at the 71st World Health Assembly opposing the first draft of the Infant and Young Child Feeding resolution. We have provided a line-by-line break down of the first draft of the resolution, which was set to be proposed by delegates from Ecuador, as well as the proposed draft submitted by the U.S. delegation along with our interpretation of the lines that the U.S. delegates opposed.

In an editorial published in the New York Post, two pediatricians, Dr. Alma Golden and Dr. Brett Giroir,  who were key members of the U.S. delegation attending the 71st World Health Assembly, wrote about the rationale for the U.S. opposition of the first draft:

As pediatricians, US representatives at this year’s World Health Assembly in Geneva and supporters of breastfeeding throughout our professional careers, we were shocked to read recent headlines, in the New York Times and elsewhere, claiming that the administration has somehow called into question the importance of breastfeeding for infants.

The administration fully endorses breastfeeding, and the agencies where we work — Health and Human Services and USAID — communicate this unequivocally…We don’t just affirm these priorities in formal conference rooms in Geneva. For years, the US government…has invested millions of dollars to promote breastfeeding both at home and abroad.

All of which is to say: Breastfeeding wasn’t in dispute in Geneva. Rather, we raised objections to an early draft of the resolution we eventually supported, which made references to a controversial 2016 guidance document. The underlying policy goal of this guidance is unsupported by US nutrition guidelines and inconsistent with the practice of most families in our country…

In particular, the guidance recommends that countries impose stringent new regulations on the marketing of any commercially produced foods suggested for children between 6 months and 3 years old. Such restrictions, in our view, prevent parents from having access to all the factual information they might need. The guidance even advocates for the prohibition of free samples of formula — including in countries and conflict zones where supplies of formula could help save babies’ lives.

Most important, there are good and valid reasons, both medical and personal, why some mothers cannot breastfeed, or choose not to breastfeed exclusively. This is particularly true in situations where displacement, other trauma or malnutrition have made it impossible for mothers to breastfeed their children, and these babies’ lives are at risk without formula or other nutritional supplementation. Parents in these dire situations need all the information and choices available.

The issue of child malnutrition occurring in war torn countries has been reported on by CNN reporter Gayle Lemmon in her article, “Don’t make babies rely on breast milk in war zones,” where she interviewed members of Doctors Without Borders who reported taking care of many infants suffering from severe malnutrition as a result of the strict restrictions of the World Health Organization and UNICEF on formula donations.

‘Over the past couple of weeks we’ve seen an increase in the number of malnourished children needing treatment,” Doctors Without Borders’ Iraq country director Manuel Lannaud said in an interview released on the group’s Web site.

The surprising thing is that Lannaud and his colleagues at the humanitarian aid group didn’t place the blame for these underfed little ones just on war and the fact that the city was under siege. They also put the blame on other international organizations and policies that seek to do good.

“It isn’t a problem of access to food. The malnutrition we see here is primarily due to the scarcity of infant formula,” Lannaud wrote. “International organizations like UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) promote breastfeeding … and provide infant formula, but only by prescription. We believe that distributing infant formula in a conflict situation like Iraq is the only way to avoid children having to be hospitalized for malnutrition.”

Doctors Without Borders says it agrees that breastfeeding promotion is a priority, but one that comes after dealing with the immediate crisis of a baby’s survival. Says Lannaud, if mothers “need formula, we give it to them.”

The mothers who need it are those facing down life-and-death situations each day, often while caring for multiple children in the shadow of war. That giving infant formula to them is so controversial speaks to a policy tripwire few outside the humanitarian realm even know exists: global “breastfeeding first” policies.

The WHO breastfeeding policies are not without flaws and aggressive promotion of exclusive breastfeeding has resulted in harm, namely an epidemic of newborn hospitalizations for jaundice, dehydration and hypoglycemia, known causes of brain injury and developmental disability, in the U.S. and across the globe. In addition, there has been a rise in accidental suffocation of newborns, called Sudden Unexpected Postnatal Collapse, from prone positioning during to skin-to-skin care and breastfeeding, made worse by maternal exhaustion from 24/7 rooming-in, practices encouraged but the WHO Ten Steps and by Baby-Friendly policies. The promotion of exclusive breastfeeding from birth has contributed to an epidemic of neonatal jaundice in the developed and developing world, which has contributed to an epidemic of perinatal brain injury and cerebral palsy particularly in the developing world, where few health care resources are available to monitor and treat exclusive breastfeeding complications. Promoting exclusive breastfeeding from birth over the local, traditional practices of supplemented breastfeeding (with wet nursing, animal milk or sugar water) until the onset of copious milk production has discouraged a practice that breastfeeding mothers used to prevent hunger and starvation-related complications like jaundice, dehydration and hypoglycemia, which now are the leading causes of newborn rehospitalization in the world.

Incidence of severe neonatal jaundice (bilirubin ≥ 20 mg/dL) in Low- and Middle-Income countries. The data reported correspond to hospital statistics. [Greco, et al, Neonatology 2016;110:172-180]

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Starvation Jaundice and Bilirubin-Induced Brain Injury in Breastfed Newborns

Lecture Delivered by Dr. Lawrence Gartner, Director of Baby-Friendly USA

We have uncovered a lecture provided to lactation consultants at a prominent breastfeeding conference given by Baby-Friendly USA Director, Dr. Lawrence Gartner, who discussed the risk of brain injury from starvation-related jaundice, called kernicterus, 90% of which occurs to breastfed babies who lose excessive weight, according to his lecture. Yet despite this training, no information on the risk of preventable brain injury from starvation-related jaundice in breastfed newborns exists in patient-directed breastfeeding literature published by breastfeeding advocacy groups other than our own.

 

 

 

 

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The Fed is Best Foundation’s Top Priority is Saving Babies’ Lives

Christie del Castillo-Hegyi, M.D., Co-Founder of the Fed is Best Foundation

In response to a letter written by 1000 Days director, Lucy Martinez-Sullivan and follow-up editorial from Kimberly Seals Allers, we wanted to take an opportunity to set the record straight.The mission of the Fed is Best Foundation is to protect infants from complications and injuries resulting from accidental starvation under currently promoted breastfeeding policies. In order to protect infant safety and ensure the patient and human rights of mothers and babies, we have built a non-profit organization committed to: (1) the study of exclusive breastfeeding complications that can result in brain injury and, in the most severe instances, death; and (2) raising public awareness to signs of infant hunger and the consequences that can result based on peer-reviewed research.

As part of our public health awareness commitment, the Fed is Best Foundation has developed and compiled extensive resources for parents and health professionals to promote safe breastfeeding and safe infant feeding policies based on evidence, including, the science of infant feeding, the caloric and fluid requirements of newborns and the caloric yield of exclusive breastfeeding. These core matters of infant feeding are shockingly absent from current breastfeeding curricula and protocols. Our Foundation is not against breastfeeding; it is for safe breastfeeding and close monitoring to prevent complications and injuries to infants reported in the medical literature, the media and by the thousands of mothers who have sent us their stories, which we receive each and every day. Continue reading

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Why the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine Guidelines for “Medically Necessary” Supplementation Make the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative Unsafe

by Christie del Castillo-Hegyi, M.D., Co-Founder of the Fed is Best Foundation

On September 22, 2017, senior members of the Fed is Best Foundation met with the top officials of the World Health Organization (WHO) Breastfeeding Program. We learned that the WHO has never studied the complications of the WHO Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding and the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI). We learned they have no studies commissioned to monitor the complications. Despite being presented data on the complications caused by allowing newborns to fast for days to achieve exclusive breastfeeding, they declined our offer to help make the guidelines safer and more ethical.  To watch the presentation given to the WHO officials, please go to this link. We learned that they have known about the risks of brain injury from exclusive breastfeeding and yet refuse to inform the public and health professionals. We learned that their provision for preventing brain injury consisted of telling health professionals to look out for “convulsions, lethargy and being unable to feed,” which are late signs of newborn brain injury. As a result, the WHO Ten Steps and the BFHI has created to an epidemic of infant feeding complications, hospitalizations, brain injury and disability in the developed and developing world. This constitutes one of the largest and most egregious violations of patient and human rights in the history of public health. They have asked for comments from the public regarding their draft revision of the breastfeeding guidelines, which make no changes to the recommendation, “give infants no food or drink other than breastmilk unless medically indicated,” while providing patients no information on the risks of avoiding supplementation. This is the official response of the Fed is Best Foundation to their request. Continue reading

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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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