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 done 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 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, and turned 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.”

3 Comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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 ❤

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