Johnson's son, Landon, would have been 5 last week had he lived through the
heartbreaking ordeal that took his life.
Instead of celebrating a milestone birthday, this
grief-stricken mother has opted to share with the world the cluster-feeding nightmare her family endured in hopes that no other baby will experience this avoidable pain.
expectant couples, Jillian and her husband, Jarrod, wanted to do what was best
for their son. They read all the parenting books and took every parenting class. In each, there was a reoccurring theme: "Every class and book was geared toward
breastfeeding," Johnson explains in a post she wrote for the Fed Is Best Foundation website, "and how it’s so important if you want
a healthy child."
hospital where Landon was born was "baby friendly" (i.e., breastfeed
or bust). According to Johnson, unless you had a breast augmentation, cancer or
some other medical reason as to why you could not breastfeed, your baby wasn't
getting any formula. And, if you did
opt to go the faux milk route, it would require a written prescription
from the child's pediatrician.
So, what happens if Mom can’t produce
emergency C-section delivery, Jillian began breastfeeding her newborn son. He
became a permanent fixture to her breast, crying whenever she tried to pull
"He cried all the time," Johnson writes. "He cried unless he
was on the breast and I began to nurse him continuously. The nurses would come
in and swaddle him in warm blankets to help get him to sleep. And when I asked
them why he was always on my breast, I was told it was because he was cluster
In his first 24
hours of life, Landon nursed for more than nine hours, yet, his weight
continued to drop. After only 53 hours, he had lost 9.72 percent of his birth
weight and by his third day of life, he was discharged and sent home to
breastfeed on a mother whose milk had not come in.
"So we took
him home . . ." wrote Johnson, not knowing that he was dehydrated and
would go into cardiac arrest less than 12 hours later.
"I had no idea
that he was inconsolable because he was starving—literally."
asleep while cluster feeding and never regained consciousness. He was placed on
life support and died 15 days later. The ER physician who handled
Landon's case believes that he died because of dehydration, followed by cardiac
arrest that was caused by brain injury. And all of this could have been avoided
had the Johnsons known what they were about to find out.
Though it is of
little comfort to this grieving family now,
one of the NICU doctors on staff shared an important message that all
breastfeeding mothers should made aware of.
"Sure breast is best, but follow with the bottle; this way
you know your baby has eaten enough," he said.
“I should’ve known,” she
writes. “I still struggle daily feeling as though I failed him.”
If you are
a nursing mother, feeling pressured to avoid supplementation, be aware of the
signs and symptoms of starvation because it can happen. We all need to eat if we want to survive, especially
infants. If you believe that your newborn is not getting enough nourishment
while breastfeeding, don’t assume that they are.
Learn from this mother’s incredible
loss and do whatever needs to be done to feed your baby until they are
satisfied—even if it means buying formula.