Newborn baby died of dehydration after mother told to only breastfeed

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by Emma Dodds |

Absolutely heartbreaking

As a new mum, you are told that "breast is best".

Of course, if you want to and are able to breastfeed your baby, then that's great - you should do it.

However, if for one reason or another breastfeeding just isn't working for you, life can become tough. It seems as though there's a stigma attached to not breastfeeding your baby - even if it's completely not your fault, even if it's not working for some reason.

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Baby Landon was born totally healthy (Credit: Facebook/ Jarrod N Jillian Johnson) ©Facebook/ Jarrod N Jillian Johnson

But for one mum, exclusively breastfeeding her baby did not give him the nutrients that children normally get from being fed breast milk. Instead, her baby died.

Jillian Johnson, from the US, gave birth by emergency caesarean to a healthy baby boy on February 25 in 2012 weighing 7 lbs. 7 oz.

Less than a month later, he was dead.

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Landon in the arms of his parents (Credit: Facebook/ Jarrod N Jillian Johnson) ©Facebook/ Jarrod N Jillian Johnson

Writing in a blog post for The Fed Is Best Foundation, an American charity that provides information on the safest methods for feeding babies, Jillian wrote: "Landon would be five today if he were still alive.

"It's a very hard birthday, five. It's a milestone birthday. Most kiddos would be starting kindergarten at this age. But not my little guy.

"I wanted to share for a long time about what happened to Landon, but I always feared what others would say and how I'd be judged."

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Jillian with her husband Jarrod (Credit: Facebook/ Jarrod N Jillian Johnson) ©Facebook/ Jarrod N Jillian Johnson

Jillian explains in the blog post that her and her husband, Jarrod, felt "ready" for the birth of their baby after reading "all of the books". She explained that every class they attended was "geared toward breastfeeding and how it's so important if you want a healthy child.

"Landon was born in a 'Baby-Friendly' hospital. What this means is everything is geared toward breastfeeding. Unless you'd had a breast augmentation or cancer or some serious medical reason as to why you couldn't breastfeed, your baby would not be given formula unless a prescription was written by the paediatrician."

I had no idea that he was inconsolable because he was starving – literally

The mum-of-two went on to explain that she began to breastfeed her baby, but something wasn't quite right: "Landon was on my breast – ALL OF THE TIME. The lactation consultants would come in and see that 'he had a great latch and was doing fine', but there was one who mentioned I may have a problem producing milk.

"The reason she gave was because I was diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) and it was just harder for women with hormone imbalances to produce milk. She recommended some herbs for me to take when I got out of the hospital."

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Landon couldn't stop crying (Credit: Facebook/ Jarrod N Jillian Johnson) ©Facebook/ Jarrod N Jillian Johnson

Jillian adds that despite quite a few worrying signs that were flagged by the doctors, she was "encouraged to exclusively breastfeed".

She continues: "Landon cried. And cried. All the time. 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.

"When I asked them why he was always on my breast, I was told it was because he was 'cluster feeding'. 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.

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Jarrod and Jillian with baby Landon (Credit: Facebook/ Jarrod N Jillian Johnson) ©Facebook/ Jarrod N Jillian Johnson

Jillian gives some stats into the first two days of her son's life:

  • By the first 24 hours, he had nursed a total of 9.3 hours, had zero wet diapers and four dirty diapers

  • By 27 hours, he had lost 4.76% of his weight

  • His nursing sessions became longer and longer until he was on the breast continuously by the second day of life

  • On the second day, he produced 3 wet diapers and 6 dirty diapers and nursed for almost 14 hours total

  • By 53 hours of life, he had lost 9.72% of his weight

She writes: "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. And when a baby is only on the breast, how do we gauge how much they're actually getting out? Sure, there should be wet and soiled diapers, and weight checks, right? And where is the limit as to weight loss and a minimum for the diapers changed?"

She then includes some information about newborn babies and feeding: "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."

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Jillian and Jarrod with their other children (Credit: Facebook/ Jarrod N Jillian Johnson) ©Facebook/ Jarrod N Jillian Johnson

Jillian and Jarrod took Landon home after being in the hospital for two and a half days, despite the baby having lost 9.7% of his birth weight. She was given no instructions to supplement her feeds with anything else.

"Less than 12 hours home with us, he went into cardiac arrest caused by dehydration. 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."

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Jillian with Landon in his final moments (Credit: Facebook/ Jarrod N Jillian Johnson) ©Facebook/ Jarrod N Jillian Johnson

Landon continued cluster feeding when taken home, but Jillian and Jarrod found him "unresponsive, pulseless and blue" after he fell asleep. He was given CPR on the way to the hospital, but had no blood pressure and was hypothermic.

Landan had been dehydrated and had suffered a cardiac arrest. An MRI scan showed that he had a brain injury as a result of oxygen deprivation.

He was taken off life support 15 days later.

I've learned I have to be my child's number one advocate

Jillian wrote: "I still have many, many days of guilt and questions – what if I would have just given him a bottle? And anger because how would I have known?

"I remember when Stella was born, she was always quiet. I kept asking the nurses what was wrong with her - they said nothing, she's doing what she's supposed to. Sleeping. Eating. And it was then that I realised that it wasn't normal for a newborn to cry as much as Landon did. 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."

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Jillian and Jarrod with Landon in his final moments (Credit: Facebook/ Jarrod N Jillian Johnson) ©Facebook/ Jarrod N Jillian Johnson

She continued: "That little boy gave me ten of the most incredibly life changing months. I've been humbled. Challenged. I've learned forgiveness. And the true meaning of 'life is short'.

"I couldn't live with myself knowing his death was in vain. Happy 5th Birthday my sweet boy. I love you to the moon and back."

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