Breastfeeding babies to death

Depressed young crying woman - victim

If you want to understand the state of breastfeeding promotion in the US today, there’s no better place to start than the vast gulf between lactivists’ (“Breast Is Best”) fears and nurturists’ (“Fed Is Best”) fears.

Lactivists fear that breastfeeding won’t be supported; nurturists fear that babies won’t be supported.

There is something very, very wrong about valuing a process more than an outcome. Sure lactivists insist that breastfeeding promotes optimal outcomes, but the outcomes themselves show that this isn’t true.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Lactivists fear being shamed for public breastfeeding; Fed Is Best advocates fear their babies’ deaths![/pullquote]

Lactivists fear that information about risks will discourage breastfeeding; nurturists fear that suppressing information about risks will discourage safety.

Lactivists fear that hypoglycemic, jaundiced or dehydrated infants infants might get formula; nurturists fear that hypoglycemic, jaundiced or dehydrated infants might get brain injuries.

Lactivists fear breastfeeding won’t be normalized; nurturists fear their babies won’t be normal.

Lactivists fear being shamed for public breastfeeding; nurturists fear their babies’ deaths.

That’s right; lactivism is literally killing babies. And it’s doing so in a variety of ways:

  • Refusal to acknowledge that insufficient breastmilk is common, not rare
  • Refusal to supplement babies who are hypoglycemic, severely jaundiced and dehydrated
  • Promoting unsafe sleeping practices by leaving babies in bed with mothers who are exhausted, sedated and surrounded by soft bedding
  • Closing newborn nurseries thereby preventing exhausted, sedated mothers from getting the sleep they need

We’ve all heard about baby Landon Johnson who had a cardiopulmonary arrest due to dehydration less than 12 hours after being sent home from the hospital where his mother was repeatedly assured by lactation consultants that he was getting enough breastmilk.

Now comes word of another perverse and heartbreaking tragedy. A mother is suing an Oregon hospital because her newborn suffocated to death in her hospital bed.

According to the Oregonian, Mom who accidentally suffocated newborn in hospital bed sues for $8.6 million:

A new mother who accidentally smothered her 4-day-old baby in a hospital bed has filed an $8.6 million lawsuit against Portland Adventist Medical Center.

Monica Thompson faults the Southeast Portland hospital for putting her newborn, Jacob, in bed with her in middle of the night so she could breastfeed him while she was unsupervised and heavily medicated with painkillers and sleep aids.

Thompson dozed off, then awoke to find that Jacob wasn’t breathing on Aug. 6, 2012, according to the lawsuit filed last week in Multnomah County Circuit Court.

Jacob suffered catastrophic brain damage, and his parents removed him from life support six days later after doctors told them that his comatose state was irreversible.

It’s an unspeakable tragedy because a new mother lost her healthy firstborn child to a cause that was easily preventable; it’s perverse because Jacob died as the result of the hospital’s efforts to meet the requirements of the Baby Friendly Hospital Iniatiative (BFHI), a program to promote breastfeeding because of its purported health benefits.

It really ought to be called the Baby Deadly Hospital Iniative because its major tenets are incompatible with safe infant care. These include censoring healthcare providers so they cannot provide accurate information about the risks of breastfeeding; banning formula supplementation; and closing well baby nurseries. The BFHI also bans pacifiers despite copious evidence that they reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Breastfeeding promotion has been causing so many injuries and deaths that the American Academy of Pediatrics has published several papers on these tragedies. The latest evidence includes:

Together these papers show that the BFHI doesn’t increase breastfeeding rates, ignores the scientific evidence on pacifiers, formula supplementation, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and leads to preventable infant injuries deaths when babies fall from or get smothered in their mothers’ hospital beds.

The bottom line is that the fears of lactivists are incommensurate with the fears of Fed Is Best advocates.

Lactivists are primarily concerned with their feelings — being able to breastfeed in public without censure, getting support for breastfeeding difficulties, improving their self esteem by feeling they are doing something important for their babies. Don’t get me wrong; those are fine goals and I strongly advocate for lactation services for those who wish to breastfeed and the right for women to breastfeed whenever and wherever their babies get hungry, BUT these fears pale into insignificance next to women’s fears that their babies will die due to insufficient breastmilk, smothering and falling from hospital beds.

It’s long past time to abolish the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative. There is precious little evidence that breastfeeding saves the lives of term babies and a growing body of evidence that we are breastfeeding babies to death instead.