In 2012, a California mom was heartbroken and shocked when her newborn baby died from not getting enough to eat despite constantly breastfeeding. Now, she is telling her story and urging new parents to give their babies the occasional bottle, because it would have saved her son's life.
Jillian Johnson and her husband, Jarrod, prepared as well as they could for childbirth and agreed that Jillian would breastfeed baby Landon as much as possible to give him proper nutrition, she recounted in a blog post for Fed is Best. Landon was born perfectly healthy and would breastfeed for 15 to 40 minutes every hour or two. But he was constantly trying to suckle and would cry whenever he wasn't feeding.
"Did you know newborns aren’t supposed to cry all the time?" Johnson wrote. "They're supposed to eat and sleep and dirty their diapers. I had no idea that he was inconsolable because he was starving -- literally."
Everything looked right when Johnson was breastfeeding, but she didn't know that her breast was actually not producing much milk at all. The first-time mom, who gave birth via emergency C-section, had no idea that she was at high risk for delayed milk production, largely because her breasts did not change much during pregnancy, and she had borderline diabetes, PCOS and infertility concerns. The hospital still encouraged her to breastfeed and said that she was doing so correctly when they checked on her. But Landon was hardly getting any milk.
"The best advice I was given by one of his NICU doctors while he was on life support is sure breast is best, but follow with the bottle," Johnson wrote. "This way you know your baby has eaten enough….if only I could go back in time."
There are certain indications that infants are getting enough milk: if your baby is regularly producing wet, colorless diapers, gulping and swallowing while feeding, gaining weight and finishing feed on their own without fussing, there is a good chance that you have a strong milk supply, according to What To Expect.
The Johnsons were discharged from the hospital three days after giving birth, notes Fed is Best. Landon had lost nearly 10 percent of his body weight and was nursing exclusively from a mother whose milk had not come in yet. Not 12 hours later, the baby went into cardiac arrest from severe dehydration after he became unresponsive, pulseless and blue. He was pulled off life support 15 days later.
"I still have many, many days of guilt and questions -- what if I would've just given him a bottle?" she wrote. "He was just crying out from his hunger. But I didn't know. I should've known. I still struggle daily feeling as though I failed him."
The family is moving forward and has since given birth to a new, healthy baby, Stella, whom Johnson said is so quiet and happy compared to Landon that she at first thought something was wrong.