Before their son Landon was born, Jillian Johnson and her husband did what most expecting couples do: prepare. They took the right classes, read the right books and thought they were ready.
All of their classes and books suggested breastfeeding was incredibly important for the health of their child.
Twelve hours after taking Landon home, he went into cardiac arrest. Jillian's biggest regret was not giving him a bottle, if he had just had one, she believes he would still be alive.
Landon was born at a "baby-friendly" hospital, where breastfeeding was encouraged. After an emergency C-section, he was found to have a "great latch and was doing fine."
But another consultant at the hospital believed Jillian was having trouble producing milk.
Staff evaluated Jillian's production and Landon's breastfeeding. If he wasn't on his mother's breast, he would cry constantly. When she asked why Landon was always latched onto her, she was told he was "cluster feeding."
On what would have been Landon's fifth birthday, Jillian shared in a blog post on FedIsBest,
I recalled learning all about that in the classes I had taken, and being a first time mom, I trusted my doctors and nurses to help me through this – even more so since I was pretty heavily medicated from my emergency C-section and this was my first baby. But I was wrong. I've learned I have to be my child's number one advocate.
In his first 24 hours of life, Landon nursed for over nine hours. Despite this constant nursing, he lost 9.72 percent of his birth weight by the time he was just 53 hours old.
Landon was discharged to the family after three days. Jillian wrote,
So we took him home... not knowing that after less than 12 hours home with us, he would have gone into cardiac arrest caused by dehydration. Did you know newborns aren't supposed to cry all the time? They're supposed to eat and sleep and dirty their diapers. I had no idea that he was inconsolable because he was starving -- literally.
Landon, while cluster feeding, fell asleep and became unresponsive with no pulse. Soon, he turned blue. He spent 15 days on life support until he passed away.
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." This way you know your baby has eaten enough. If only I could go back in time.
Dr. Christie del Castillo-Hegyi, an emergency physician who has a background in newborn brain injury research at Brown University, explains,
Constant, unsatisfied nursing and inconsolable crying are two of the signs of newborn starvation that lead to brain-threatening complications. If a child is receiving a fraction of their caloric requirement through early exclusive breastfeeding, they can experience severe hunger and thirst, which is why they will cry inconsolably and breastfeed continuously when it is the only source of calories and fluid they are offered. If a mother's colostrum does not meet the child's caloric requirement, they will breastfeed for hours a day in an attempt to relieve their hunger. A child who is 'cluster-feeding' may actually burn more calories breastfeeding than they receive in return, which can result in fasting conditions and accelerated weight loss.
Jillian is still dealing with the guilt of losing Landon, but also the anger because how could she have known?
She noted when her daughter Stella was born she was a quiet baby. She kept asking the nurses what was wrong with her -- but Stella was healthy, sleeping and eating like a baby should. Jillian realized then Landon's constant crying wasn't normal.
But I didn't know. I should've known. I still struggle daily feeling as though I failed him.