More and more new moms are speaking out about the pressure they felt to exclusively breastfeed after giving birth through the non-profit organization Fed Is Best – which, earlier this month, shared the heartbreaking story of 19-day-old baby Landon, who died from accidental starvation.
In a new blog post on the organization’s website, one mom wrote that she was unable to produce breast milk after her daughter Ariya’s birth.
“Nothing was coming from pumping or self-expressing,” she wrote. “I was ashamed to ask for formula in the hospital, but I couldn’t hear her scream anymore – it ripped me apart to hear her in pain. I was faced with some resistance when asking for formula, but I insisted they provide it anyway.”
“Who knows what would have happened to her if I continued to exclusively breastfeed?” she wrote. “I know now that deciding to give her a bottle was the smartest thing I could have done. What’s not fair about my situation, and plenty of other women’s, is the pain, the judgment, the overwhelming sense of failure that came with having to, and choosing to, give a bottle to my baby.”
Fed is Best advocates for safe breastfeeding, including supplementing with formula when medically necessary, in response to the stories of mothers accidentally underfeeding or starving their babies due to insufficient colostrum (a mother’s early milk), according to co-founders Jody Segrave-Daily RN, and Dr. Christine Del Castillo-Hegyi.
Jillian Johnson, the mother of young Landon who passed away at 19 days old, previously told PEOPLE of sharing her story through the website, “I just want people to educate themselves so they don’t make the same mistake I did. I couldn’t sit by any more and have another mom feel what I feel every day. I don’t want any parent to have this hole in their heart. Nothing can fill it.”
In another new blog on the site, mom Alison wrote that her breast milk did not come in until four days after her son’s birth, so she supplemented with formula until then.
“I am 100% sure that if we had not found your website and had as many conversations as we did about what we think is right for our child, I would not have so willingly embraced formula during the early critical days of our son’s life,” she wrote. “Thank you for helping us have a happy, healthy baby.”
Another mother, Jennifer Brozowski, revealed that her breast milk, too, did not come in immediately, but that nurses discouraged her from bottle feeding and only gave her newborn tiny amounts of formula. The baby was then admitted to the NICU after showing signs of hypoglycemia, and was then given formula.
“[Jakob] showed immediate signs of improvement,” she said of the switch. “My baby was discharged out of the NICU and back at my bedside within 24 hours. My husband and I continued to follow the discharge instructions from the NICU, which were to feed the baby with the same amount of formula as he was getting in the NICU when breastfeeding was not successful. We were both scolded by the nurses, being told that we were feeding our son too much.”
Brozowski ultimately opted to solely bottle feed Jakob, but said she “felt guilty every day.” It was only after attending a mother/baby psychiatric day program that Brozowski “finally realized what shame was put on me by the hospital staff for wanting to feed my child and keep him and myself healthy and happy.”
Fed is Best co-founder Segrave-Daly previously told PEOPLE that new moms are encouraged to exclusively breastfeed in many hospitals, but some women’s bodies cannot provide sufficient hydration and calories to their newborns in early days of life.
But Trish MacEnroe, executive director of Baby Friendly USA (the national authority for the baby-friendly hospital initiative, which promotes breastfeeding from birth), told PEOPLE, “Breastfeeding is safe and it is the way our bodies were designed to feed human infants.” She added that the organization recognizes that while breast milk is ideal, feeding it exclusively is not always possible.
“Human mothers produce milk that is best for their infants. Breastfeeding is the most natural way to feed a baby. But it doesn’t always come naturally to all mothers.”
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MacEnroe said that that’s why it’s okay to supplement. “There is room for supplementation and there is room for a mother not to choose breastfeeding. But like any health care recommendation, we always want mothers to know what the scientific evidence is, and if there are any side effects or consequences of a different choice.”
“If the baby’s not feeding well, make sure you get help from the nurse,” Sears advised. “A lot of hospitals have lactation consultants if you need help breastfeeding. Find out how the baby is doing so you know how quickly you need to follow up with the pediatrician. Sometimes it’s the very next day after coming home from the hospital.”
He added, “I’ve had babies not get enough feedings from both breastfeeding and bottle-feeding. It’s important to look at the baby and not the clock. If the baby’s fussy and seems hungry, even if it’s only been an hour, go ahead and feed him again.”
- With reporting by RENNIE DYBALL