My beautiful baby girl Mary-Kate was delivered by emergency c-section, and although there were complications during labor, she was healthy on arrival. Having done a bit of research and listened to the advice of professionals, as well as the threat of the global pandemic posing a risk, I decided I would breastfeed my daughter, to provide her with passive antibodies for COVID-19 from my milk.
I began exclusively breastfeeding in the hospital and the midwife said Mary-Kate had the perfect latch. I loved being a mummy, I could not stop looking at this beautiful little human me and my partner had created, but Mary-Kate was becoming increasingly unsettled. She was almost always attached to my breast and would fall asleep soon after latching on. I spoke to the health visitors, and we were told her crying was colic. We began giving Mary-Kate lots of colic-type remedies.
Each time somebody came to weigh her whether it be the GP, HV, or Midwife, Mary-Kate was not gaining and was in fact losing weight. I could not understand, because she was ALWAYS feeding. Nobody seemed alarmed by this. I was told to just keep trying, she might be a ‘slow starter’. Never once did they check to see what my milk supply was or how much she was getting. The professionals would leave, and I would carry on as normal. Baby attached to the breast, me trying to maintain some sort of order in the home, taking care of my personal needs and sleep. Mary-Kate would just cry and cry and cry unless asleep at my breast. I was exhausted, I was falling asleep whilst holding my baby and I knew this presented its own risks. Continue reading →
My son will be three months old tomorrow, and I’m reflecting on our nursing journey with gratitude. I had infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss prior to having him, and (after two rounds of IVF and six embryo transfers), he was born at 35 weeks. So we had a lot working against us for successful breastfeeding, but I wanted to try breastfeeding and I was ready to advocate for myself and the baby if needed in the hospital, since I knew I had significant risk factors for delayed onset of milk.
On August 11, 2020, Dr. Nicole King, Anesthesiologist, Critical Care Intensivist, Patient Safety Expert and Senior Advisor to the Fed is Best Foundation spoke at the USDA Scientific Report of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee meeting warning of the dangers and patient rights violations of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative. Watch her address below.
Good afternoon, my name is Nicole King and I am a mother and a physician. As an anesthesiologist and intensive care physician, I am faced with life and death circumstances every day. In no way did I ever consider breastfeeding my child would be as stressful as supporting a COVID patient through their critical illness. Five years ago, I realized how wrong I was.
As a new mother who had had a breast reduction and a physician, I should have known better, but I did not. I fed into the same propaganda, misinformation and fervor around breastfeeding that has grown over the last 30 years as a result of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative and the WHO’s Ten Steps [to Successful Breastfeeding]. I was not informed of its risks and followed the exclusive breastfeeding guidelines, and as a result, my newborn lost excessive weight and was readmitted for dehydration and jaundice.
The current USDA guidelines are filled with the same soft science riddled by confounding factors, that has led to the shaming of women who are unable to exclusively breastfeed for 6 months. The guidelines are an ableist and elitist narrative and read as an invitation to admonish women for failing to produce enough milk for her child. It blatantly ignores research that clearly shows that delayed lactogenesis of mature milk is common, found in up to 40% of first-time mothers and 22% of all mothers, even those who are motivated to exclusively breastfeed. Never mind the 15% of women who are incapable of sustaining breastfeeding past the first month, even with lactation support.
If you are ill and in the hospital, nutritionists are there to calculate the calories needed to feed you in order for you to thrive and recover. Why then are we so easily fooled into thinking an infant who is building muscle, fat and brain cells can be sustained on far less than their caloric needs, purported by the Baby-Friendly policy? If the “biological norm” is put forth as a reason to exclusively breastfeed, then why are exclusively breastfed infants being admitted daily for dehydration, jaundice, and hypoglycemia? Why do we continue to insist on a policy that increases the risk of harm to infants while vilifying supplementation that prevents serious complications? Every day, I protect my patients with medications, machines and nutritional alternatives to overcome so many failures of the “biological norm.” I do this because I too am human and understand that we care and love for each other regardless of our ability to live up to a standard of perfection. Yet we allow babies to become seriously ill by pressuring mothers to achieve this standard of perfection that millions cannot safely achieve. If judicious and humane supplementation is the difference between a hospitalized and a safely breastfed child, then we have failed all mothers and infants in this country by disparaging its use.
The USDA draft policy continues to ignore these realities and thus fails to protect countless infants. National guidelines should never encourage a policy that is directly responsible for the leading cause of rehospitalization of healthy term infants. And most importantly, as a national guideline, it should apply to all mothers, regardless of her ability to breastfeed, across all socioeconomic demographics.
As a mother who followed these guidelines and was led to rehospitalize her own infant, I beg you to consider the plight of all mothers and infants in this country. Every infant deserves to be protected from hospitalization and the complications of an exclusive breastfeeding policy. And their mothers deserve to know that breast milk is but one way to best nourish their children. The USDA is responsible for every child in the US and their policy should reflect this responsibility.
Dr. Nicole King, M.D. is a patient safety expert and Senior Advisor of the Fed is Best Foundation. She is a board-certified anesthesiologist and critical care intensivist.
By A Mother from the Fed is Best Community who wishes to remain anonymous
This is my baby girl in NICU. She developed a high fever, jaundice, and dehydration with a 10.1% weight loss 56 hours after birth while exclusively breastfeeding in a ‘Baby-Friendly’ hospital.
During our stay, the hospital pediatrician saw my baby twice a day but he failed to inform us she had a 7.2% weight loss in the 30th hour of life. Hence, we were not given the information to decide if we should supplement with formula.
According to a review published in theJournal Of Family Practice in June 2018, “exclusive breastfeeding at discharge from the hospital is likely the single greatest risk factor for hospital readmission in newborns. Term infants who are exclusively breastfed are more likely to be hospitalized compared to formula-fed or mixed-fed infants, due to hyperbilirubinemia, dehydration, hypernatremia, and weight loss.” They estimated that for every 71 infants that are exclusively breastfed, one is hospitalized for serious feeding complications.
She was always furiously latching and my nipples were cracked and bleeding from constant nursing. She became very sleepy and now I know she was lethargic. Naively, I continued to breastfeed as instructed, and we told everything was fine until she developed a high fever just before discharging. They suspected bacterial infection and my poor baby endured a spinal tap, blood tests, IV glucose, and prophylactic IV antibiotics while waiting for results to come back. There was avery concerned NICUnurse that told me it’s time someone questions the strict exclusive breastfeeding practices of the BFHI. She was the one that told me to look at the weight loss when I was shocked and confused wondering how on earth my little girl caught a bacterial infection.Continue reading →
Washington, DC — On July 11, 2019, Dr. Christie del Castillo-Hegyi, Co-Founder of the Fed is Best Foundation and Jillian Johnson, Fed is Best Advocate and mother to Landon Johnson, who died from hypernatremic dehydration while exclusively breastfeeding, traveled to Washington, DC to provide testimonies to the 2020 USDA Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. This is the first year that the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) have included pregnancy and birth to 24 months.
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.
Chaz develop hypernatremic dehydration from insufficient feeding while exclusively breastfeeding
“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. Continue reading →
It was on December 13th at 2:30 in the morning. My water broke as I was sleeping. I woke my husband up and the panic set in. My son was a scheduled C-Section due to the fact he was breech and he was going to be a big baby according to all the scans. I was scheduled for the 18th, which was my birthday, but he decided to come early. My husband and I rushed to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tacoma, WA. This hospital was a “Baby-Friendly” hospital, which meant they push things like exclusive breastfeeding, no pacifiers, and no nurseries. I didn’t think much of these things at the time, as I was a first-time mom and hadn’t pondered on them much. On paper, this all sounded great, and I was excited to go there. I had a simple birth plan: no circumcision and I wanted my husband in the operating room. That was it really. I trusted the doctors and nurses there to help me out.
My son was born on February 18, 2019. He was 6 lbs 10 oz and had a little trouble regulating his temperature at birth. But after 24 hours, he was okay. I was always told breast was the best way to go. I never breastfed my 9 year old so this was my first experience with it.
My son had latching issues at first and it caused major pain and bleeding. But after latch correction and using nipple shields, the pain dissipated. When we left the hospital, my son weighed 6 lbs (9.3 percent weight loss) and at his checkup the next day, he had gained half an ounce.
At home I was feeding straight from my breasts, every time. My son was content and seemed happy. He smiled and was great the entire time, so I thought. I didn’t pump to see how much milk I had because the hospital where I delivered told me pumping in the first 6 weeks could cause confusion for the baby with latching.
Now fast forward to when he was 21 days old. He had his three week checkup and he was extra sleepy that morning. When we got to the doctor, and not only did he lose weight, (down to 5.5 lbs), but he also had a temperature of 92 degrees. He was hypothermic! So they sent us urgently to the children’s hospital in Nashville. Continue reading →
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
Increase the proportion of infants who are breastfed (MICH 21)
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
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 →