Pregnancy can be a very stressful time. An expectant mother tries to do the best she can to ensure that her baby will be born happy and healthy.
But even after childbirth, there are any number of things that can go wrong with a newborn. Each parent is told to “listen to your doctors and they’ll guide you along the right path.” But what one couple would find out is that doctors don’t always have the right answers…
When Jillian and Jarrod Johnson were pregnant with their first child, they wanted to do things right. They wanted to make sure they knew everything they needed to know so they turned to the experts. “We took all of the classes. Bought and read all of the books,” Jillian said.
Every class and every book emphasized one important thing new mothers should do for their baby’s health: breastfeeding. So Jillian fully intended to breastfeed, so much so that she and her husband decided that their baby would be born in a “Baby-Friendly” hospital…
A Baby-Friendly hospital is one in which everything is geared toward breastfeeding. The hospital would not give formula to a baby unless the mother had had a breast augmentation, breast cancer, or some other serious medical condition that wouldn’t allow them to produce milk. In fact, a baby wouldn’t be given formula at the hospital unless a prescription was written by the pediatrician.
Jillian and Jarrod thought they were ready. They had full confidence in the advice of their doctors and they believed they had studied and prepared as well as possible for being first time parents…
When the time for their baby to be born arrived, the Johnsons made their way to the hospital. While Jillian’s labor was proceeding well at first, doctors noticed a problem. It seemed that her baby was experiencing “fetal distress,” a complication in which the unborn child is suffering from a lack of oxygen.
Because of the fetal distress, doctors thought it best to perform an emergency C-section. The C-section was successful and there were no further complications. Landon Johnson was born weighing 7lbs. 7oz with all signs looking positive…
Back With Mom
Two and a half hours after he was born, the doctors had assessed Landon’s health, provided all necessary medical treatments and cleaned him up. He was then returned to Jillian in the Mother-Baby Unit. Landon seemed to be breastfeeding well with an excellent latch.
But while most newborns will cycle between feeding and sleep, Landon was breastfeeding all of the time. The lactation consultants at the hospital said that Landon “had a great latch and was doing fine” but there was one consultant who had some concerns about Jillian’s milk…
Indications of Trouble
One consultant believed that Jillian might not be producing enough milk. Her reasoning was that she displayed some of the risk factors for failed and delayed milk production: borderline diabetes, issues with fertility, small, widely spaced breasts with minimal growth during pregnancy, being a first time mother, and an emergency C-section patient.
On top of all that, Jillian had been diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal imbalance. It’s fairly commonly for women with hormonal imbalances to have trouble producing milk. Despite all of that, Jillian was encouraged to breastfeed exclusively and not to give her baby formula…
But on the second day of Landon’s life, he was still nursing continuously. Whenever he wasn’t he would cry hard. Nurses at the hospital would swaddle him in warm blankets and help to get him to sleep When Jillian asked why he was always feeding, she was told “it was because he was cluster feeding,” a term to describe when a baby feeds at a few points clustered close together in the day.
In the first 24 hours of his life, Landon had nursed for over 9 hours but had not yet urinated and alarmingly, he’d also lost nearly 5% of his body weight. On the second day, he nursed for nearly 14 hours and lost nearly 10% of his body weight. Still, Jillian was told that everything would be ok. Still heavily medicated from her C-section, she kept her trust in her doctors…
Two and a half days after Landon was born, he was discharged and sent home with Jillian. The concerned lactation consultant told her about some herbal supplements she should take that would help with her potentially low milk production. Early the next morning, Jillian and Jarrod woke up to find Landon unresponsive.
Landon’s skin was blue and when Jillian picked him up, his body was limp in her arms. With a spike of fear, Jarrod immediately started CPR while Jillian dialed 911. An ambulance came and rushed the newborn to the emergency room…
Doctors were able to resuscitate Landon and put him on life support at the hospital but it wasn’t immediately clear what was wrong. It wasn’t until days later that a doctor in the neonatal ICU told them what had happened: Landon had become so severely dehydrated that his heart stopped beating.
I Don’t Understand
The news came as a shock to Jillian. “It was really hard for me to comprehend at that point, because I had been breast-feeding him — ‘What do you mean he was dehydrated?’ ” Jillian said. “I couldn’t wrap my head around it. I was frustrated with myself because, there were these doctors and nurses who kept telling me, ‘Just keep feeding him. Just keep him on the breast. You’ve got a great latch. You’re doing fine,’ ” she added.
Landon remained on life support for more than two weeks. Due to the damage that had been done to his internal organs, it became clear that he would never properly develop or be able to survive without the assistance of machinery.
Nineteen days after he was born, Jillian and Jarrod Johnson made a heart-wrenching decision. Faced with no chance of recovery, they decided to remove Landon from the machines that were keeping him alive.
Despite the nightmare that she went through, Jillian still supported breastfeeding. After Landon’s death, she gave birth to two girls without significant complications. She chose to breastfeed them both but this time, she supplemented their diets with formula.
I Wish I’d Known
More than anything else, she regrets not knowing then what she knows now. “But I didn’t know. I should’ve known. I still struggle daily feeling as though I failed him,” she said, adding “I had no idea he was starving. Oh my God — if I’d known that, I would have given him a bottle”