Bitter grief is often an unselfish motivator.
Consider organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, started by parents who suffered the ultimate loss, to ensure that other parents would not have to endure the death of a child. Consider the various laws named after children who were abducted and murdered, championed by parents who wanted to make sure that no other family’s life would be shattered by crushing grief.
Dr. Christie del Castillo-Hegyi is performing a valuable public service. Why are lactivists chastising her for it?
Fed Is Best is an organization like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, started by a parent whose baby was starved into devastating brain damage by the relentless promotion of breastfeeding at a so called “Baby Friendly” hospital. It was started by Dr. Christie Castillo-Hegyi.
My son was born 8 pounds and 11 ounces after a healthy pregnancy and normal uneventful vaginal delivery. He was placed directly on my chest and was nursed immediately. He was nursed on demand for 20-30 minutes every 3 hours. Each day of our stay in the hospital, he was seen by the pediatrician as well as the lactation consultant who noted that he had a perfect latch. He produced the expected number of wet and dirty diapers. He was noted to be jaundiced by the second day of life and had a transcutaneous bilirubin of 8.9. We were discharged at 48 hours at 5% weight loss with next-day follow-up. We were told by the lactation consultant before discharge that he would be hungry and we were instructed to just keep putting him on the breast…
This went on for several days. Then Christie note:
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 … 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). We were reassured that he would be fine, but having done newborn brain injury research, knowing how little time it takes for brain cells to die due to hypoglycemia and severe dehydration, I did not believe it, although I hoped it.
She was right to be concerned:
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…
Christie took her grief and did something positive with it. She founded the Fed Is Best Foundation along with lactation consultant Jody Segrave-Daly in order to spread the word about the dangers of insufficient breastmilk. She works spare other families her agony.
Not surprisingly, lactivists are up in arms about the foundation and its hashtag #FedIsBest.
This recent post on Meg Nagle’s Facebook page is typical:
#fedisbest takes away the importance of HOW we are fed. In what other area of health does the actual product going into our mouths not matter? It’s not just about being “fed”. Being fed is minimum, and obviously a baby needs to be fed. But being fed the milk that is made exactly for our child and continually changing to meet their needs is the norm…and how we are fed does actually matter.
Here’s my English to English translation:
Breastfeeding has to be best, otherwise I’m not the best mother and that’s just impossible!
Other lactivists, their fragile self-esteem on the line, joined in.
That’s not news, of course. We see this all the time, but every now and then a response is so vicious that it deserves special notice. Like Jennifer’s response:
Christie del Castillo-Hegyi Please learn to accept your child the way they are. Your constantly publicly bemoaning your child’s diagnosis is disturbing. When they are an adult, they will find out how horribly you viewed parenting them, and how publicly you exploited their diagnosis as a tool to build your anti-breastfeeding platform. How will you answer when they ask why you didn’t spend more time working to promote disability justice, accommodation, and advocacy?
Yes, Dr. del Castillo-Hegyi, please stop bemoaning your child’s brain damage. How dare you try to prevent other babies from suffering the same preventable fate? It’s … it’s … it’s exploitation!! How dare you criticize breastfeeding, the source of my self-esteem? My breasts work great; too bad yours didn’t, but it’s time to move on.
Here’s what I’d like to ask Jennifer:
When your child is old enough to read what you have written online, and sees that you just told the mother of a brain-injured child to stop moaning about it, how will you explain your cruelty?
Is your self-esteem so fragile that it can’t deal with the notion that motherhood is powered by love, not by breastmilk. Is your identity so bound up with the function of your breasts that other women must mirror your choices back to you?
No one is interfering with YOUR ability or desire to breastfeed your child. Why are you trying to interfere with Dr. del Castillo-Hegyi’s desire to inform women about the serious, even deadly, consequences of insufficient breastmilk?
She’s generously performing a public service, so why are you chastising? You should be thanking her instead.