The lactivists at this hospital did what??!!


After 10 years of writing about this topic, I thought I had heard everything. I was wrong.

I recently received an email from a pediatrician who wrote in regard to the local hospital:

…Last month they tried to put through a new policy not to weigh babies on the first day of life. The reason was so that doctors would not “pull the trigger to start supplemental formula” if they didn’t know the weight and subsequently if the baby had lost too much weight.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”#B3907D” class=”” size=””]I thought I had heard everything. I was wrong.[/pullquote]

Yes, that’s right. Lactivists were planning to dispense with newborn weights. No matter that parents want to know a newborn’s weight. No matter that newborn weight is almost certainly required on birth certificates. No matter that newborn weight and changes in weight are important indicators of health and illness. Excessive newborn weight loss (greater than 10%) can be dangerous leading to serious complications like hypernatremia (elevated blood sodium concentration) and even death … and it’s relatively common.

In Breastfeeding-Associated Hypernatremia: Are We Missing the Diagnosis? the authors explain:

In this study, we report on 70 children who developed hypernatremia attributable to insufficient or inadequate breastfeeding during a 5-year period… Nonfatal complications were frequent, the most common being severe hyperbilirubinemia, apnea, and bradycardia. One of 4 children who underwent neuroimaging had subependymal hemorrhage. These data suggest that hypernatremia is a common complication of inadequate milk transfer during breastfeeding in the United States.

In the present study, the 5-year incidence of breastfeeding-associated hypernatremia among all hospitalized term and near-term neonates was 1.9% (70 cases per 3718 admissions), significantly higher than the reported incidence of hypernatremia attributable to all causes among hospitalized children, adults, and elderly subjects (1.1%)…

There is reason to think that the incidence of breastfeeding-associated hypernatremia will increase and that currently the condition is under-recognized… Findings from a recent study revealed that 16% of exclusively breastfed infants born to primiparous women had >10% weight loss by day 3 of life, despite education and support provided by a lactation consultant.23 It is estimated that 10% of breastfed infants develop hypernatremia24 and that ∼33% of breastfed infants with weight loss exceeding 10% have hypernatremia…

Dr. Christie Castillo-Heygi has written eloquently about her son’s experience with hyponatremic dehydration. He was born healthy, weighing 8lb 11oz.

We saw our pediatrician at around 68 hours of life (end of day 3). Despite producing the expected number of wet and dirty diapers, he had lost 1 pound 5 ounces, about 15% of his birth weight. At the time, we were not aware of and were not told the percentage lost … He was jaundiced but no bilirubin was checked. Our pediatrician told us that we had the option of either feeding formula or waiting for my milk to come in at day 4 or 5 of life.

Wanting badly to succeed in breastfeeding him, we went another day unsuccessfully breastfeeding and went to a lactation consultant the next day who weighed his feeding and discovered that he was getting absolutely no milk. When I pumped and manually expressed, I realized I produced nothing. I imagined the four days of torture he experienced and how 2 days of near-continuous breastfeeding encouraged by breastfeeding manuals was a sign of this. We fed him formula after that visit and he finally fell asleep.

Three hours later, we found him unresponsive. We forced milk into his mouth, which made him more alert, but then he seized. We rushed him to the emergency room. He had a barely normal glucose (50 mg/dL), a severe form of dehydration called hypernatremia (157 mEq/L) and severe jaundice (bilirubin 24 mg/dL).

He survived with serious impairments:

At 3 years and 8 months, our son was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder with severe language impairment. He has also been diagnosed with ADHD, sensory processing disorder, low IQ, fine and gross motor delays and a seizure disorder associated with injury to the language area of the brain…

Neonatal hypernatremia is notoriously difficult to diagnose until a baby is extremely ill. One of the few ways to diagnose it early (or even prevent it altogether) is by monitoring newborn weight, precisely what the lactivists at this hospital DON’T want to do.

Why do lactivists want to stop weighing babies? Like many natural parenting ideologues, process is more important to them than outcome. Because formula supplementation is anathema to them, they’d rather wait until babies as close as possible to permanent brain injury and death before giving them formula to save their brains and lives.

It’s like turning a lifeguard’s chair to face away from the beach instead of toward it so as not to rescue a drowning person until others are screaming on the theory that rescuing people before they actually inhale water into their lungs might ruin their fun.

Weighing newborn babies is preventive medicine. It helps prevent serious complications like seizures, hyperbilirubinemia and brain damage, rather than waiting until they happen and then rushing to prevent death. There is something very, very wrong with their philosophy if lactivists would rather promote breastfeeding than healthy babies. It is immoral; it is unethical; and it is deadly.