Mom Speaks Out After Baby Dies From Cluster Feeding

February 28, 2017
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Five years after the birth of her baby boy, Landon, a woman is speaking out about his death.

Jillian initially feared what others would say and how she would be judged. She is now ready to put those feelings aside in the hopes that sharing her story will help prevent other families from experiencing similar loss.

Jillian and her husband did everything they needed to prepare themselves for their baby’s birth..

“We took all of the classes. 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 born via emergency C-section at a “baby-friendly” hospital which was geared towards breastfeeding. He was exclusively breastfed and despite lactation consultants saying that “he had a great latch and was doing fine,” one noted that the Mom might be having trouble producing enough milk.

The hospital staff then evaluated Jillian’s risk factors for difficulties with milk production and they had Landon continue to breastfeed, even though he would constantly cry unless he was on his mom’s breast.

The new Mom felt as if she was continuously breastfeeding and when she asked why her baby was always on her breast, she was told that 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 one advocate.”

Baby Landon

Baby Landon nursed for over 9 hours during his first day of life, but after being alive for just 53 hours, he had lost 9.72 percent of his birth weight.

He was discharged from the hospital at less than 3 days old and continued to frequently and exclusively breastfeed.

“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 diapers. I had no idea that he was inconsolable because he was starving – literally.”

After arriving home, Landon kept falling asleep while cluster feeding and then became unresponsive with no pulse, turning blue.

He was on life support for 15 days but then sadly 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,” Jillian wrote. “This way you know your baby has eaten enough. If only I could go back in time.”

According to Dr. Christie del Castillo-Hegyi, who is an emergency physician with a background in newborn brain injury research at Brown University, Landon died as a result of dehydration, which was followed by cardiac arrest caused by brain injury:

The constant, unsatisfied nursing and inconsolable crying are two of the signs of newborn starvation, which lead to brain-threatening complications.

When a child is receiving a fraction of their caloric requirement through early exclusive breastfeeding, they will experience severe hunger and thirst, which is why they will cry all the time and breastfeed continuously when it is the only source of calories and fluid they are offered.

If a new mother’s colostrum does not meet the child’s caloric requirement, the baby will breastfeed for hours a day in an attempt to relieve from their hunger.

A baby who is “cluster-feeding” may actually burn more calories breastfeeding than they receive in return. This can result in fasting conditions and accelerated weight loss.

Now, five years later, this mom is still dealing with endless guilt. She’s also asking questions what her life be now if she had just known to give him a bottle.

“And anger 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,'” she wrote.

“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 hunger. But I didn’t know. I should’ve known. I still struggle daily feeling as though I failed him.”

31 Comments

  1. Sandra Carter

    February 28, 2017 at 8:10 pm

    Will pray for you as I went through breastfeeding much like you experience with first baby girl.
    She was 8 lbs, 7oz, big for me and was hungry all the time too. I attended Lelche classes which gave me confidence but baby wanted to nurse. Army pediatrician suggested I give Simalac after feedings, helped a lot but then I had decrese in my milk. I finally gave up breastfeeding. With second daughter, more successful.
    Saddened by your loss, will pray for some comfort for you. Pleas try again, every baby is different and I’m sure the Lord will bless you again…..don’t be afraid, and God bless you!

  2. Heather

    March 2, 2017 at 5:35 am

    I really enjoyed this article. its gard enough being a first time mother especially if your young. No matter how many books you read or classes you take everyone is different every pregnancy undetermined. What kind of lil person will they be what care will they need their is no hand book. My heart goes out to this mother and her family to experience such a great joy then loss of a precious life over something so simple as formula. After having the exhausting experience of birthing a child we trust our nurses an doctors to know whats best and take care of us. I am a firm believer in breastfeeding but in 07 with my second child who weighed 9lbs after an endless 12hrs of trying to feed him and his inconsolable crying to my point of tears as i knew i had nothing to offer him. My mother had to Argue with hospital staff for a bottle they said it would confuse him after some angry words and 4ozs of simalack later he and i slept like babies should with a full belly. Had i not had my mother for support and already having a 2yr old i would hate to think what could have happened. i hope for all first time mothers to read this learn and just know we are not perfect go with your gut cus mother knows best some of these hospitals mean well but take their protocol over the individual needs at hand. Like me some of us just cant produce the amount of milk to keep our growing babies content its ok to do both if the kid is hungry feed them by any means. I also wish this famimy some kind of justice in any form necessary this is not the mothers fault this should never have happened to this family over something so simple.

  3. donna

    March 2, 2017 at 7:44 am

    I’m so sorry for her loss i truly am. I hope her heart has a great recovery from this devastating blow.

  4. Mary

    March 3, 2017 at 9:59 pm

    This is so sad. I breastfed my daughter 23 years ago and always followed with a bottle to make sure she was full. Will keep this mom in prayer.

  5. Sue

    March 3, 2017 at 10:08 pm

    I am so sorry for your loss. I don’t believe you are at fault. The medical staff that was giving you the information you and your husband was looking for is at fault. They should be so very ashamed at what they did. You should not feel like you did not try and help your little one. Breast feeding for nine hours to help your baby is not an act of not caring. My heart hurts so very bad that you no longer have your sweet baby. My question, if you can’t thrust doctors and nurses who are you suppose to thrust? The people who gave you the advise should be held acountable. God Bless you and your husband.

  6. Rena

    March 3, 2017 at 10:28 pm

    This is terribly misleading. It is unfortunate and I am dearly sorry for the mother and family. However, the conclusions appear to have been written by someone completely unfamiliar with breastfeeding. Which functions best after a natural birth. After a c-section a mom may not produce breastmilk immediately. The anesthetic and analgesic drugs are strong and have ill effects on milk production. Please refrain from sensationalist journalism and read more into what you’re reporting. There is nothing wrong with early exclusive breastfeeding. This woman should’ve know what type of diaper output to look for to ensure her child was actually eating. Bottles are not the only solution here.

    • A

      September 1, 2017 at 4:01 am

      THANK YOU! Finally someone said it.

    • Taranach

      September 2, 2017 at 12:23 am

      I am really rather upset with the self-righteous busybodies denigrating this woman’s story or information contained herein… What part of “Emergency C-section” did you not get? You should(of course) know that full milk production is ramped up in the last hormone surges of getting ready to give birth…you know, some of the same ones that start off the pre-contractions? The next point of contention is revealed in paragraph five, or did you not read that? It specifically states that milk production volume was already in question… but Nooooo get your nasty little snide remarks in about what she “should have known” or done… as if you were the expert and present at the time… Lord your’ supposed superior knowledge over everyone when it has been proven time and time again that there are ALWAYS outliers from the norm and even the experts don’t always have all the answers… except for you of course… Ye are nigh unto a medical God…. Disgusting…

      • Tullalah

        September 3, 2017 at 11:53 pm

        What nasty comment..I hope your disgusting comments wasn’t directly at me..if a parents shouldn’t know about this then you shouldn’t know be parents at all..even an 18 year old mother knows that all the sign were there not enough wet diaper is the biggest sign..plus the nurses are at fault too. What kind of nurses say that’s ok if the baby cried all the time..baby cried all the time has to be something wrong..if t’s all common sense and don’t bring god in it..if yoi don’t know all these please don’t be a mother at all..don’t say yoi don’t know be a responsible adult and don’t blame you don’t kmow because she’s a first time mother..disgusting grow up.

    • tj

      September 22, 2017 at 3:39 am

      I really do think c sections have an impact in milk production. My first two I produced a bunch of milk, but my last showed much less. My daughter at around ten months old kept pulling away after trying to nurse and getting fussy. So one morning I pumped to see how much she was getting. I had reduced milk supply to half an ounce both breats combined. That did it for me, I put her on formula after that then weaned to cow’s milk and solid foods.

  7. Susi

    March 3, 2017 at 11:04 pm

    I have never heard of Cluster Feeding. It is normal for babies to lose weight before they leave the hospital and I find it pathetic that the nurses did not check to see if your milk was coming in at all. Nurses should have known something was wrong when you couldn’t stop breastfeeding.
    I will say that it really doesn’t matter how old you are when you have your first child you are really stupid. Not all kids are the same. So as a mother you did nothing wrong. It is sad that your little one has become an Angel. I guess God needed another.
    I hope people learn from your story and new mothers need to ask questions, no matter how stupid they sound. Thank You for sharing.

    • Chaulinh

      March 4, 2017 at 1:35 am

      Thank you for sharing your story. It’s so hard and sad! Even for my third child I still concerned a lot. The consultant insisted me to breastfeeding and it was my priority choice for my third child. However, I didn’t have enough milk, my system didn’t even want to produce milk. I did breastfeeding and thought everything went well. Before I discharged from the hospital I got an infection my nipples. I still gave breastfeeding for my daughter and then she slept all the times and whenever she was awake she cried I breastfeeding fed her but she went to sleep so fast. I was worry if she had enough . Two days after discharging from the hospital I noticed her eyes was yellow. I immediately called my daughter doctor and asked to go to ER right away! Thanks god I did because my daughter had jaundiced. I know it was normal but for my daughter she lost her weight and we stayed in the hospital for the weekend and she stay for 24 hours treatment. After that I can’t produce any milk and she is happy with the formula!

  8. Racheal

    March 4, 2017 at 3:19 am

    I am very sorry for your loss, may God always bless you and your family. You clearly are a good mother and simply did not know. I have never heard of cluster feeding. Thank you for sharing, I am sure it was very difficult for you. Your beautiful baby has returned home to our father as he has bigger plans for him. Forgive yourself as he would. Take good care.

  9. Grandma

    March 4, 2017 at 4:07 am

    My granddaughters baby was not getting enough food but fortunately I told her to start him on some formul a d he started gaining weight

  10. Mayson's Mom 2014

    March 4, 2017 at 9:01 pm

    Omg I’m so sorry for you and the father’s lost. God bless your little angel and the both of you. You do not blame yourself and I’m extremely proud of you for sharing and being a strong woman. It’s really hard regardless how ever long it’s been, I lost my daughter six years ago from a heart defect, but she did survive for one hour and three minutes. I now have a healthy toddler boy named Mayson that I breastfed for a couple days after he didn’t latch so I started the pump which I only did for 3 more weeks. So I say all that to say this it’s very hard breastfeeding it’s either the baby dont latch or you can’t produce enough milk or on the other hand all goes well you just never know. So good luck with everything hope you guys try again and have a healthy strong baby God Bless and again thanks for sharing your brave.

  11. Patty McKee

    March 5, 2017 at 2:54 am

    The nurse or Dr should have pumped your milk to check how much, and if it was good. This is NOT your fault at all. They missed the call, not you. They are the ones trained to tend to newborns, and should have known something was off. But you said you were sent home under 3 days, and all babies should be monitored at least 3 days to catch this sort of thing. Insurance companies trying to save money are a big cause for misdiagnoses leading to death. You have nothing to feel guilty about.

  12. Irena

    March 6, 2017 at 3:23 pm

    You’ve done nothing wrong. The nurses and doctors failed you. Thank you for sharing with us your sad struggles.

  13. Karynna

    March 6, 2017 at 4:09 pm

    Wow this article is soooo far from the truth!!!! I’m an IBCLC and research shows that the majority of moms produce enough milk for their babies. Did this baby have an autopsy?? It’s nice that some “expert” said this baby probably died from dehydration but did he actually have an autopsy that ruled out that dehydration caused a cardiac malfunction and as a result death???? 9% weight loss is still considered within normal limits the first few days and unless this child had congenital cardiac conditions that would have put him at risk for death, dehydration is actually a condition that takes many days to take its toll on the body. Infants are born with brown fat that helps them “survive” the first 24-48 hours without food as well as they are born with fluids onboard, hence the weight loss almost all babies experience the first couple of days. I feel terrible that this mom lives with this guilt. If she was misinformed then someone needs to rectify this for her to move on with her life. However, for her to think that her breastfeeding issues killed her baby is absolutely asinine!!! So what is your take-home message here what is the point of this article?? That moms should formula feed only “just in case”??? Formula actually raises the risk of SIDS by 64% the first few months of an infant’s life so that isn’t the answer. Or is your point that a feeding should be “chased down” with a bottle of formula??? If that’s the case then we are putting all infants at risk for obesity not just the 67% of American adults and children that suffer from it as a result of overeating from day one. This article is ridiculous. And now you have emailed millions of mothers who will now decide not to breastfeed their children because of one case that has so many holes to its story and raises more questions than answers and partial truths that now you have contributed to yet another reason why Americans won’t breastfeed causing further ignorance and all sorts of health problems. Do your research before you use an entity like this as your tool to drive a subjective point that lacks hard evidence. You have the power to destroy fragile infrastructures or strengthen them merely by the influence of your typed words.

    • anonymous

      September 3, 2017 at 10:44 pm

      Wow why did you even post on here? you have no empathy and mist just be a mean person. I know someone this almost happened to. Had she not gone to the ER when she did she would have lost her daughter. I do not hace children yet. What this article, hearin of first-line experiences from other people and other articles I have read with this same story, I will nto breastfeed but pump. Same nutrients but you know how much your baby is getting. And not all babies and people who are not breeast fed become ebese. Actually I have seen babies who are beeast fed and look ebese. You are not an intelligent person so you should keep you thoughts to yourself

  14. Netra

    March 6, 2017 at 11:09 pm

    I’m absolutely in shock myself, cluster feeding is not something that we as 1st mom’s are even educated about. I’m very sorry for your loss. Baby Landon has earned his wings. Quietly watching over mommy and daddy ❤

  15. Emily Bennett

    April 11, 2017 at 3:07 pm

    Thank you for sharing your sad story, you did nothing wrong all of the baby classes and everything you do as a parent NEVER prepares you for a new baby. My biggest fear with my first new born was being left alone and not knowing what to do if she started crying and my 2nd fear with my 2nd child was worrying if I was producing enough breast milk. Now I have 3 children and the only thing I worry over is nothing except that they’re safe. You didn’t fail as a parent but NEVER stop advocating for for your family, I recently learned with my two oldest if you don’t advocate for them nobody will- you are their voice even if there’s something wrong keep bringing it up until somebody listens.

  16. Georgine Sullivan

    May 29, 2017 at 6:42 pm

    My son did the exact same thing he cried all afternoon evening long and after calling a lactation specialist in the middle of the night – She told me to give him a bottle of sugar water until she could come over to diagnose his problem in the morning. After the bottle he immediately fell asleep. The lactation specialist came over at 8 am and after having him suck on her finger she diagnosed him with a suck, swallow coordination problem. He sucked but did not have the muscle coordination to swallow and without that a mother’s breast will not respond to produce milk. I had to use a Lactaid which I attached to my breast to supplement nursing sessions with formula. It is extremely important for new mothers and infants to work closely with someone who understands nursing problems. New infants should be weighed carefully, frequently and urine output must be monitored for signs of dehydration. Also have a pediatrician who knows what he is doing – mine was useless even though I expressed concerns in the hospital about my sons constant crying and the fact that I thought he wasn’t nursing right – the doctor just said my milk hadn’t come in yet then sent me home. Thank God I had taken a lactation class before his birth and had the number of the specialist – she saved his life.

  17. Lynda

    May 30, 2017 at 10:47 pm

    How brave of you to share your story! You are helping many Moms struggling with breast feeding. I was an older mom, 36, and just by my nature question everything. I just felt that my son was hungry so I supplemented him with a bottle when I got home. I was highly criticized and told my mild would never be enough if I kept supplementing. And maybe I was wrong, but I had to make the call. My second child was sick a LOT and had to be on a very expensive formula, but again I did not produce enough milk. Maybe if I nursed more, ate differently, drank more. Who knows? But we moms all do our best. We love our babies and sometimes we are right and sometimes we make mistakes. Just remember God has a plan. And he is using your experience to keep others safe and healthy and your story is making a difference.

  18. Brenda Monrreal

    June 6, 2017 at 9:17 pm

    I read in many baby books that one has to make sure the baby has wet diapers that is how you know they are deinking the milk. I admire the mom for aharing her story to make sure this does not happen again. My heart goes out to this family.

  19. K8lnv

    June 26, 2017 at 8:48 pm

    This story hits way too close to home! It’s like I typed it myself. This very same thing happened to me and my baby. Instead of cardiac arrest my 3 day old baby suffered seizures causing scare tissue on his brain. He now has continuous seizures. I voiced the same concerns and even asked for a donor bottle and was told by hospital staff it was all normal cluster feeding. He spent 10 days in the NICU. I also have the same guilt, endless medical bills, and came close to losing my baby all because no one would listen to me that he was not well. Hospitals have to change their ways. I am so sorry for the loss of your baby!!

  20. Maria

    June 26, 2017 at 9:25 pm

    I am so sorry for your loss and can’t even begin to imagine how you go about with the rest of your life without your little Landon. The doctors and nurses that assisted you are for sure at fault, and should probably rethink their positions and procedures, since they are dealing with human lives. I will say that some babies crying very frequently can unfortunately be normal depending on the baby. My daughter, who is now 9 and a half months, cried frequently for the first few months of her life because she had colic. I hope you can someday forgive yourself, as you were just being the best mommy you could possibly be. May God bless you always…

  21. Alyson Melenchuk

    August 31, 2017 at 4:45 am

    Much love to you! I am so sorry for your loss. After also losing a child, I understand the guilt. I am constantly reminding myself that I did the very best I could with the tools, knowledge,and support that I had. My wish for you is to have the burden of guilt be lifted. Hugs

  22. Alena

    September 1, 2017 at 5:12 am

    Praying for you and your husbands loss. I remember my baby girl going to ER at 3 days old with a high fever and a couple hours after her 3 day check up. She was okay at her check up. She was in the NICU for a couple of days with tubes and test being run trying to figure out what was wrong. She was dehydrated and it was the scariest 4 days of my life. I was not producing enough milk as well. So in that part I understand how it felt not knowing your baby was starving even after breastfeeding so many times a day or hour.

  23. Donna Thom

    September 2, 2017 at 3:17 am

    I am so sorry for this families loss. By no means is this mother at fault the medical staff is just nuts. For the baby to dehydrate that fast there would have been no used diapers at all. Alarm for concern don’t you think?! I also question was there an autopsy. The child could have had digestion blockage deformities of some sort. I smell a rat and it’s not from the family!!

  24. leslie

    September 2, 2017 at 7:18 am

    This sounds all too familiar, like the same formula. Its a bold piece, with the settings of “My baby wasn’t gaining weight! I did what I was supposed to do”, and then some attachment parenting or something else thrown in to make it seem so… crunchy. The truth is, this is a pretty easy way to get women to doubt themselves and go for formula. Let’s ask some SERIOUS questions – was the baby tongue tied? That can affect weight. Did the baby have a reaction to the Hep B vaccine? That’s 250mcgs of aluminum – that’s enough to shut down the kidneys of an adult. VitK? Seems innocent but has a black box warning – 100 mcgs aluminum. The baby, just hours old, has had 350mcgs of aluminum, formaldehyde, and countless other toxins literally shoved in its body. America is #1 in first day infant mortality of all developed nations, in fact, we’re behind several third world nations. But… formula! Yeah, let’s not check for tongue ties, reactions to the hep b, circumcision (that affects latch as well), or any other issue – Let’s blame the mom. Its the mom’s fault, because that’s what the writer of this all-too-famiiar sounding story wants you to believe. Don’t be like this mom, formula feed! I call BS. There are too many variables and this doesn’t check out.

  25. Carrie S

    September 3, 2017 at 3:38 pm

    I am appalled that someone has convinced this mother that her cluster feeding caused her baby’s death. Yes, some dyads have trouble with effective nursing and low milk supply, but it doesn’t take a breastfeeding specialist or pediatrician to count wet diapers to verify baby is not dehydrating; it takes someone capable of counting to two. If this baby was dehydrated, the hospital staff would have or should have known. I find it difficult to believe the staff neither counted diapers nor instructed the mom to do so. I doubt this baby died of dehydration, and I wonder how those who convinced this mother that her cluster feeding caused this are able to look in the mirror each day.

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