Jillian Johnson's son Landon died five years ago, but she's only talking about it now.
"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," Johnson wrote in a blog for The Fed Is Best Foundation, a non-profit organization focused on the complexities of infant feeding.
As a first-time mom, Johnson said she read every book and took every class she could, most of which emphasized the importance of breastfeeding. "Landon was on my breast – ALL OF THE TIME," she wrote. "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."
Johnson explained that the nurse was concerned about her PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) diagnosis, which makes it harder for mothers to produce milk. Instead of suggesting formula, the nurse recommended herbs to help with milk production.
"He cried unless he was on the breast and I began to nurse him continuously," Johnson recalled. On his first day of life Landon nursed for nine hours but within two days he lost nearly 10 per cent of his weight.
Did you know newborns aren’t supposed to cry all the time?," she wrote. "I had no idea that he was inconsolable because he was starving – literally."
While it is normal for breastfeeding babies to lose 10 per cent of their weight after birth what happened next was extremely rare. 12 hours after being discharged from the hospital — at only 2.5-days-old — Landon went into cardiac arrest caused by dehydration.
"I had no idea that he was inconsolable because he was starving – literally."
Though Johnson's PCOS diagnosis may have affected her ability to produce milk, it can sometimes take between three and four days for breast milk to come in for first-time moms, midwife Emma Dufficy tells The Baby Centre. "You may have noticed that your breasts leaked a little milk during pregnancy. This is the rich, creamy first milk (colostrum) that's in your breasts from the middle of pregnancy. In the days before your milk comes in, this will provide your baby with all the nourishment she needs. Babies only need a few millilitres per feed at this early stage."
While Landon was on life support a NICU doctor told Johnson, "breast is best, but follow with the bottle." Landon was taken off life support 15 days later.
"I still have many, many days of guilt and questions – what if I would’ve just given him a bottle? And anger because how would I have known," Johnson confessed.
According to Australian parenting website Kidspot.com, 1 in 5 infants are at risk of starvation as a result of being exclusively breastfed from birth.
Signs of infant starvation include weight loss, finger sucking after feedings, more frequent wakings, green-coloured stools and persistent jaundice. If you suspect your child is malnourished speak with your doctor to confirm the diagnosis and don't be so hard on yourself if you need to give your baby a bottle or two.