Maternal Mental Health Feels Like it Comes Second to Breastfeeding When It Should Be First

This story is for you mommas whose mental health feels like it comes second to breastfeeding, when it should be first.
I have a long history of mental illnesses in my family. I inherited most of them. While they do not define me, they are a part of me. I have Bipolar 1 Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder and a Panic Disorder.

I tried to get pregnant in 2016, but through no fault of my own, was diagnosed with PCOS and had to go back on hormones to re-regulate my cycles. Luckily, I was able to score an appointment with my amazing fertility specialist in Jan 2017 and I soon became pregnant in February. I saw my psychiatrist shortly after and I couldn’t decide if I should bring up how depressed I felt. This pregnancy was very much wanted but I wondered if I risked my stability and my mental health. My husband and I quickly decided pregnancy was not the time to start playing with my medication and I was just going to have to “push” through my depression unless I had thoughts of self-harm.

In this study, researchers found that 1 in 4 women had mental health problems: 15% had anxiety, 11% had depression, 2% had an eating disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder, and 1% had post-traumatic stress disorder. The research also found low prevalences of bipolar disorder and other disorders.

My obstetrician expressed a need for a high-risk obstetrician (Maternal Fetal Medicine, MFM) to get on board with my care. During our anatomy scan, my MFM doctor said the baby looked perfect from what she could see. I was discharged as her patient unless my primary obstetrician felt it was necessary to see her again. I left the office feeling content with our plan. Then it hit me, I forgot to ask about breastfeeding! I emailed her quickly and within hours, I had a response. And it wasn’t a response I wanted.

I was CRUSHED when I saw “your medication secretes in breast milk and I advise against breastfeeding and whatever you do, do NOT stop your medication to do so.”

Talk about a blow. I cried. A lot. I had always wanted to breastfeed for as long as I can remember. I felt so much guilt that she wouldn’t get my milk and that I let her down because of my mental illness.

Rachel, an amazing friend of mine and pediatric nurse practitioner (if you haven’t read her blog, you should because it’s amazing!) and coworker told me about The Fed Is Best Foundation’s private support group and how it helped her feel like she was a wonderful and loving mother even though she had to exclusively formula feed her baby. The more shifts we had together, the more we talked. The more we talked, the more I realized I was letting myself believe in the harmful lactivist rhetoric. Suddenly I realized that I was willing to let myself stop my medication because I wanted to breastfeed. Who thinks that? Certainly not someone normal, right? Well, I did. I had a plan.

I was secretly going to stop ALL my medication and breastfeed because, dang it, I believed breast was best and all good mothers breastfeed their babies.

Boy, did I have it wrong. My husband quickly found out I was not going to take my medication and he was devastated and very concerned. After a heart to heart with him and my therapist, I finally saw the light. My baby girl needed ME more than she needed my breast milk. She needed a stable and mentally healthy mom more. Talking more with my friend Rachel and being in the Fed is Best Support Group, I became more and more at peace about having to formula feed. Soon, I got my Mom’s and my oldest sister’s support, who both breastfeed all their children, and they said they’d help me every step of the way.

Without them and the Fed Is Best support group, I likely would have stopped my medication, gone to a dark place and likely ended up in a hospital with a mental breakdown.

And the bonding? She’s presently crying, banging on the door because she wants to be inside the room with me. We had some formula hiccups along the way, but figured them out. She’s now 13 months old and seriously the light of my life. And yes, I had postpartum depression even while medicated. It happens. Get the help and support you deserve momma. You are so much more to your baby than your breast milk.

You are their life. Their person, their mom.

You need your medication to be a better mom? Take it. She or he won’t know the difference. Because you are what they need more.

I hope my story helps any mom feel better about needing her medication to be mentally stable. I just want to say, “Thank you.” Thank you for teaching us that WE mothers are what matter…not the method of how our baby is fed. I had to put ME first so I could be there for her and that includes how I fed her.

We are BOTH thriving and happy as can be because fed really is best.

 


Additional blogs about mental health:

Can Redefining Infant Feeding Goals Enable Families to Feel Confident About How They Nourish Their Babies?

The Breastfeeding Support I Received Almost Killed Me And My Daughter; I’m Still Suffering From Breastfeeding Trauma

My Inability to Exclusively Breastfeed Was a Constant Destructive Force in My Life After My Son’s Birth – I Had a Suicide Plan

I Had Permanent Tear Streaks On My Face – Thank God For The Fed Is Best Foundation

Is breast always best?

 

 

WAYS YOU CAN SUPPORT FED IS BEST

There are many ways you can support the mission of the Fed is Best Foundation. Please consider contributing in the following ways:

  1. Join the Fed is Best Volunteer group to help us reach Obstetric Health Providers to advocate for counseling of new mothers on the importance of safe infant feeding.
  2. Make a donation to the Fed is Best Foundation. We are using funds from donations to cover the cost of our website, our social media ads, our printing and mailing costs to reach health providers and hospitals. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Print out our letter to obstetric providers and mail them to your local obstetricians, midwives, family practitioners who provide obstetric care and hospitals.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Shop and Fed is Best Foundation will earn cash back! We hope to develop our online safe infant feeding classes with these funds.
  10. If you need support, we have a private support group– Join

Donate to Fed is Best

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Fed is Best Foundations Statement to USDA Healthy People Goals 2030

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:

  1. MICH-23 – Reduce the proportion of breastfed newborns who receive formula supplementation within the first 2 days of life.
  2. 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 ObjectivesBaseline (%)Target (%)
Increase the proportion of infants who are breastfed (MICH 21)
Ever74.081.9
At 6 months43.560.6
At 1 year22.734.1
Exclusively through 3 months33.646.2
Exclusively through 6 months14.125.5
Increase the proportion of employers that have worksite lactation support programs (MICH 22)2538
Reduce the proportion of breastfed newborns who receive formula supplementation within the first 2 days of life (MICH 23)24.214.2
Increase the proportion of live births that occur in facilities that provide recommended care for lactating mothers and their babies (MICH 24)2.98.1
We applaud the removal of the last two objectives as patient safety issues have emerged from those two objectives, namely increased rates of neonatal jaundice, weight loss, hypoglycemia and dehydration readmissions. We have submitted the following statement regarding the Healthy People Goals for 2030 requesting for a revision of the current proposed objective and the addition of two new objectives.

Exclusive breastfeeding at discharge is a major risk factor for severe jaundice and dehydration. Both conditions can require in-hospital treatment and can result in permanently impaired brain development. Photo Credit: Cerebral Palsy Law

 

Revision of MICH-2030-15 calling for “Increase in the proportion of infants who are exclusively breastfed from birth to 6 months” to the following:

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.

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“Just Trust Your Body And There Will Be Enough Breast Milk”— I Was Devastated When I Learned She Was Starving

Corrine

I’ve been trying to write this for two months but my mama bear anger has been difficult to process. I’m done with obsessing now, and I hope telling my story will help me and any other mother who may be  feeling the same way. I want to move on from the anger so I can be the happiest and the best mother for my baby.

I researched extensively about birthing and breastfeeding while I was pregnant. I was extremely determined to breastfeed and I learned doing so meant I was a great mother and considering the information regarding the amazing benefits which went largely unchallenged, I just couldn’t understand why any woman wouldn’t want to do this. At no point did I ever read any literature or even speak to anyone who highlighted the difficulties of breastfeeding or that some women were biologically unable to breastfeed. At no point did it ever feel like it was a choice. There was no choice – good mothers breastfeed, they gave their babies the very best- the “gold standard” they called it.  My mindset had also taken on a deep suspicion of formula as an unnatural ‘chemical substance’ and basically a second-best feeding alternative and who wants to give their baby second best. Not only this but I had been repeatedly advised by mothers in support groups not to supplement as this reduced your supply and interfered with the breastfeeding relationship which would ultimately rob your baby of the “best”. There was absolutely no choice.

At no point did I ever read any literature or even speak to anyone who highlighted the difficulties of breastfeeding or that some women were biologically unable to breastfeed. At no point did it ever feel like it was a choice.

Continue reading

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I Chose to Formula Feed and I Don’t Owe Anyone An Explanation

By Alix Dolstra

I never realised there was a war between breastfeeders and formula feeders until I became pregnant and suddenly my breasts became everyone’s business. I found this rather odd as, outside of pregnancy, it’s usually seen as a form of harassment when others start commenting on your breasts, but I digress.

Very quickly after the “congratulations” came the “will you be breastfeeding?” I very openly admitted that I’d be formula feeding, unaware that I had metaphorically stepped in dog poo and wiped it on the clean carpets in the eyes of shocked onlookers. Apparently, I’d said the wrong thing. I couldn’t understand why, and that’s because I hadn’t actually said anything wrong in the first place.

I planned on formula feeding. I have absolutely no interest in breastfeeding. I support breastfeeding but I won’t do it myself. It has always been that way and I don’t feel like I owe an explanation. Though, quite often, I’d found myself being asked very personal and confronting questions about my body.

It made me feel… invalid — like somehow I owed it to them to have my personal space invaded.

When my brothers and I were children in the 90s, my mother formula fed us, while our neighbour breastfed her children. There was never an argument. We’d visit each other and it was normal. Some of us breastfed and some of us didn’t and that was okay. It was all the same to me. The babies were fed and happy. Breastfeeding was normal and so was formula feeding and that was the harmony in my mind when it came to my decision. It was quite a shock to find that it was a different world for me when I got pregnant.

Very quickly you learn that you are no longer seen as a human being with feelings and preferences. You’re an incubator that must meet societies ever-changing, sanctimonious expectations and you can never please everyone because there’s always someone who will strongly oppose and shame you. Through reading, I found that even if I had chosen to breastfeed, I would likely have been shamed and labelled a harlot for breastfeeding in public. You simply can’t win… at least, you can’t win if you’re always trying to please others. In reality, whatever choice you make, you’re likely winning as long as you’re not feeding your newborn soft-drink and coffee.

While I was buying the bottles, the steriliser and the prep machine and lovingly creating a “formula station” in the kitchen and neatly lining up the tin of formula until everything looked picture perfect, I was being compared to a drunk-driver because “feeding rat-poison formula to your baby is as irresponsible as driving drunk because you’ll ruin their lives”. That was a real thing someone had said to me.

I’d also had my mental health questioned, told that I was being lazy, that my child would be dumber in school and fall behind, that she’d be sick all the time and it’d be all my fault for not “loving her enough”.

Pregnancy wasn’t fun. I had Hyperemesis Gravidarum and pregnancy was just one, big argument over what I should do with my boobs. I never swayed as I knew that I was doing the right thing for my family.

People that know me may know that I am scared of needles. I don’t like them. I had a drug-free birth and avoided that monstrous-looking needle that was the epidural. I simply do not like needles. I shudder at the thought. When my daughter was born she came out with her arm as well as her head and I needed A LOT of needles before getting stitches. That is the last thing I wanted when I was already pretty sore.

The midwife had taken my husband out, helped him make a bottle (bless supportive hospitals!) and guided him back to the birthing suite to give our daughter her first feed. One of the most precious first memories I have of my daughter was watching her from the chaos that was my bed, all bundled up in the arms of her loving father, he cried tears of joy as he fed her her first bottle and gently greeted her between sobs. It was so precious and it took my mind completely off the mess I was in. Every time he fed her, that memory was there and brought me joy. That he could look after her in times when I would be unable to was very reassuring and he’s been a fantastic father for it. We do things 50/50, even feeds. We slept in shifts and both of us, though still exhausted, were rested enough.

Formula feeding, for us, really connected us all as a family unit. No one felt pushed out. Not everything was dumped on me like society had expected it to. We were a team from the very start and that was important for us.

Everyone tries to scare you and tell you that you won’t connect with the baby and if you claim that you did connect and bond, they’ll claim that it wasn’t as much as they did with their babies but that always sounded weird and competitive. How would they even know? We lovingly made our daughter a bottle and talked to her, sang to her and adored her little features, blown away that we made the most perfect baby in all the world. To us, she was our treasure and we treasured those times. We’d hover over her as she slept, whispering to each other about her cute expressions and wondered who she’s going to be when she grew up. Every time she looked at us and smiled and laughed, our hearts melted. She would do this cute little dance whenever she could hear the prep machine making her a bottle and it was part of our routine. All of it.

That bond that others threatened we’d never have? We had it. It’s no competition and it’s not up for speculation or debate.

She was also rarely sick, slept well, very smart and ahead in her age group. All the things that I was told would happen didn’t happen. I honestly wasn’t surprised.

I’d always strongly believed that genetics and environment played a big part in the overall outcome of our children’s development and reading the article, The Case Against Breastfeeding by The Atlantic, I learned that a lot of what I’d been told wasn’t entirely accurate at all and it was all based off groups who made a profession out of making mothers guilty. I felt even more relaxed in my decision and I’m going to be formula feeding my next baby from the start as well.

To me, it does not matter whether you breastfeed, formula feed or tube feed. We are all doing a spectacular job and if we can just leave the sanctimonious tripe at the door, and stop trying to outdo each other, I’m sure we’d have a more powerful village of mums supporting mums.

Fed is best, always!

—Alix Dolstra, Australia


HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT FED IS BEST

There are many ways you can support the mission of the Fed is Best Foundation. Please consider contributing in the following ways:

  1. Join the Fed is Best Volunteer group to help us reach Obstetric Health Providers to advocate for counseling of new mothers on the importance of safe infant feeding.
  2. Make a donation to the Fed is Best Foundation. We are using funds from donations to cover the cost of our website, our social media ads, our printing and mailing costs to reach health providers and hospitals. We do not accept donations from breast- or formula-feeding companies and 100% of your donations go toward the cost of creating and publishing educational material. All the work of the Foundation is achieved via the pro bono and volunteer work of its supporters.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Print out our letter to obstetric providers and mail them to your local obstetricians, midwives, family practitioners who provide obstetric care and hospitals.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

Donate to Fed is Best

Thank you so much from the Founders of the Fed is Best Foundation!

 

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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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Please Support Fed is Best on #GivingTueday!

We are making preparations for #GivingTuesday! This year, Facebook and Paypal are joining to match up to $7 million of donations made to non-profit organizations through Facebook. Please consider logging on to our Facebook page at midnight on November 27, 2018 to make your donation to Fed is Best. Put it on your calendar!

Donate to Fed is Best

This year, we are extending our campaign to hospitals and health officials. We have developed our information for hospitals page on the Fed is Best website and are developing our Fed is Best Foundation hospital guidelines for Safe Infant Feeding. We also plan to send our health professional advocates to Washington, D.C. to raise awareness on the safety issues that insufficiently fed newborns face on a daily basis.

Please help us in our mission. For those who would like to donate today or on a monthly basis, please consider going to our new donation page.

Thank you to all our supporters! #FedisBest

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

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

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How I Learned That Fed is Best

by Jen Gamarano

I hate to admit it, but before I got pregnant, and even when I was pregnant, I was already a judgmental mom. I started watching documentaries about natural birth and breastfeeding years before I even entertained the idea of having children because it fascinated me. Women’s bodies are amazing. We are capable of growing, birthing, and feeding a brand new life and I was on board for doing all of it naturally because biology is perfect and I was made to do this – or so I thought. I looked at moms who opted for epidurals and thought “If only they knew about natural birth and how amazing it is”, or those who formula fed and thought  “How sad” because breast milk is magical and formula will never be able to measure up. I hate to admit these things, but I have to admit them so you know just how much this journey has changed me.

Our birth plan was simple – deliver at the birth center with our doula and midwife, stay there for four hours, go home, breastfeed forever, be happy. I’m lucky to have had a fairly short labor of nine hours, but afterwards was nothing like I’d imagined. I ended up transferring to the hospital to repair a third degree tear. Lovely, I know.

We started to breastfeed at the hospital, and it hurt like they all said it would. L. had trouble latching but he was still nursing so I just tried to be patient. I had a rough first few days as my body tried to balance out hormones. I was shaky, hot, sweaty, mad, sad, and all-around miserable. I called the midwife who told me this was normal and advised me to stay in bed and “breastfeed, breastfeed, breastfeed”. So I did. The next day, my son started crying like crazy when I tried to latch him, and refused to nurse for a full 24 hours. The pediatrician told us to supplement with formula and I gave in because I felt sick, tired, and good lord, I wasn’t going to starve my child.

“The next day, my son started crying like crazy when I tried to latch him, and refused to nurse for a full 24 hours.The pediatrician told us to supplement with formula and I gave in because I felt sick, tired, and good lord, I wasn’t going to starve my child.”

When he finally started to latch again, it was clear that I didn’t have enough for him. He would get sleepy after only a few minutes of nursing, sleep for a few minutes, and then wake up crying and wanted to eat again. I spent a couple days feeding him every 15 minutes and didn’t wear a shirt or see anyone during that time. I met with a lactation consultant who listed a whole slew of things that could potentially be wrong with him. I also learned that I had an infection on my nipple and he developed thrush, which made all of this infinitely more complicated and painful. I was still determined to breastfeed, so we saw two lactation specialists, an ENT and Osteopath to evaluate the little guy, and I tried every natural remedy in the book. I took supplements and tinctures, drank dark beer, pumped multiple times in an hour, saw another lactation specialist, ate almonds, stayed hydrated, pumped, nursed, pumped, nursed, until I just couldn’t do it anymore. I got to the point where I just said without emotion “tried it” whenever someone gave me advice to increase my supply. I was exhausted. I woke up to pump every morning and sobbed because I would only get dribbles and my baby just wasn’t getting that ever so magical breast milk despite all my best efforts.

I’ve heard so many different opinions about my son and I on our journey that I don’t think I can definitively say what the root cause of all of this was. The opinion that made me feel the most at ease was from our ENT who flat out said that not every baby is a fit for every breast. Until then, I’d been conditioned to think that since I was a woman, breast feeding would be the most natural thing I’ve ever done. I forgot in all of this that all humans are different and that’s part of the beauty of life. I had to stop blaming my baby, and I had to stop blaming myself for “failing” at this. I had to give up the notion that this was, in fact, a failure, because it wasn’t.

This journey made me bake myself an entire humble pie and eat every last crumb. I started to look at breastfeeding and motherhood from a much different perspective. I came to terms with the fact that feeding my baby formula and the tiny bit of breast milk I did have was infinitely better than having a baby that couldn’t thrive and a sobbing mommy. I became grateful that I live in a time where formula exists to provide nourishment to my child.

“I became grateful that I live in a time where formula exists to provide nourishment to my child.”

Every mom out there is incredible. I’m proud of moms who breastfeed exclusively. I’m proud of moms who use formula. I’m proud of moms who do both. I’m proud of moms who have natural birth. I’m proud of moms who use modern medicine to take away the horrible pain. I’m proud of every mom who chooses to do the best thing for her baby and herself. The sisterhood of motherhood is incredible and I’m grateful to be a part of it and share my story.


HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT FED IS BEST

There are many ways you can support the mission of the Fed is Best Foundation. Please consider contributing in the following ways:

  1. Join the Fed is Best Volunteer group to help us reach Obstetric Health Providers to advocate for counseling of new mothers on the importance of safe infant feeding.
  2. Make a donation to the Fed is Best Foundation. We are using funds from donations to cover the cost of our website, our social media ads, our printing and mailing costs to reach health providers and hospitals. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Print out our letter to obstetric providers and mail them to your local obstetricians, midwives, family practitioners who provide obstetric care and hospitals.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

Donate to Fed is Best

Thank you so much from the Founders of the Fed is Best Foundation!

 

 

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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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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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