If I Had Given Him Just One Bottle, He Would Still Be Alive
Instead of celebrating on who had allegedly been her son Landon’s fifth birthday, Jillian Johnson took the time to open up about the deaths among her newborn boy.
Fearing she may be judged or labeled a “ bad mom , ” Jillian steered clear of sharing the story of Landon’s life and death for a long time. But she hopes in doing so now, her narrative might save another child’s life.
In preparing for Landon’s arrival, Jillian and her husband expended her pregnancy doing everything they could to be ready for their precious son.
“We took all of the class. Bought and read all of the books. We were ready! Or so we thought…” she shared on the Fed Is Best Foundation’s blog. “Every class and book was geared toward breastfeeding and how it’s so important if you want a healthy child.”
Landon was even delivered in a “baby friendly” hospital, which geared moms toward breast feeding. And after an emergency C-section, Landon exclusively breastfed.
Lactation consultants assured Jillian that “he had a great latch and was doing fine, ” but Landon was constantly fussing for his mother’s breast.
Jillian’s doctors evaluated her for difficulties with milk production, but her risk factors proved to be low, and they had Landon continue breastfeeding.
But the first-time mom felt like she couldn’t catch a violate. Landon was on her breast for 15 -4 0 minutes every one to two hours. And when he wasn’t feeding, he was constantly crying. When Jillian asked why that was, the consultants told her it was because he was “cluster feeding.”
“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, ” she wrote. “But I was wrong. I’ve learned I have to be my child’s number 1 advocate.”
In his first 24 hours of life, Landon nursed for more than nine hours. After being alive for only 53 hours–only two and a half days, the baby had lost 9.72 percentage of his birth weight.
After simply three days in research hospitals, mama and baby were released to go home, despite being exclusively breastfed “with a mom whose milk had not come in.”
“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, ” she wrote. “Did you know newborns aren’t supposed to cry all the time? They’re supposed to eat and sleep and dirty their nappies. I had no idea that he was inconsolable because he was starving–literally.”
According to Dr. Christie Del Castillo-Hegyi, “Constant, unsatisfied nursing and inconsolable call 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 endlessly when it is the only source of calories and fluid they are offered.”
In addition to starvation, Dr. Christie says a child who is “cluster feeding” may actually burn more calories breastfeeding than they receive in return. This often leads to fasting conditions and rapid weight loss like Landon experienced.
When the new household returned home from the hospital, Landon fell asleep while cluster feeding. He became unresponsive with no pulse.
After 15 days on life supporting, the newborn 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, ‘” she wrote. “This way you know your baby has eaten enough .
If only I could go back in time.”
It’s been five years now since Jillian lost her son for something that could have totally been avoided had she knows that it advocate for her newborn. Today, she wrestles with the remorse of wondering what life would be like had she known.
“I still have many, many days of remorse and questions–what if I would’ve only dedicated him a bottle? And rage because how would I have known. I remember when Stella was born, and 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 realized that it wasn’t normal for a newborn to cry as much as Landon did. He was just crying out from his thirst. But I didn’t know. I should’ve known. I still struggle daily feeling as though I failed him.”
Jillian says she misses her son, and the life that could have been, but he taught her so much in his short little life.
“That little boy gave me ten of the most incredibly life-changing months. I’ve been humbled. Challenged. My relationships have fallen apart. Some have come back together. I’ve learned forgiveness. And the true meaning of “life is short.” I love hard–to a fault. But I couldn’t live with myself knowing his death was in vain. I’ve learned so many lessons. I’ve learned the true meaning of compassion and unconditional love.”
Ultimately she hopes that sharing her tale now–though painful and hard to reconcile–will help other mothers to know that FED is best.
SHARE Jillian’s story with a mama in your life, help spread the message that newborns should never go hungry.
Visit fedisbest.org for more information.