World Health Organization declares babies dying from breastfeeding complications are “not a priority”

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I’m not often surprised these days, but I was surprised about this.

Christie del Castillo-Hegyi, MD and Jody Segrave-Daly RN, IBCLC of the Fed Is Best Foundation recently met with breastfeeding experts at the World Health Organization about the issue of babies starving, suffering brain injuries and dying due to insufficient breastmilk. They were told that it is “not a priority.”

Please join me in imploring them to reconsider by signing the petition, World Health Organization, please make preventing breastfeeding deaths a priority!

Please join me in imploring them to reconsider.

On Sept. 22, 2017, senior members of the Fed is Best Foundation, and guests including a neonatologist and a pediatric endocrinologist, Dr. Paul Thornton, M.D, lead author of the Pediatric Endocrine Society’s newborn hypoglycemia guidelines, met via teleconference with top officials of the WHO Breastfeeding Program: Dr. Laurence Grummer-Strawn, Ph.D., Dr. Nigel Rollins, M.D. and Dr. Wilson Were, M.D. to express their concerns about the complications from the BFHI [Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative], and to ask what, if any, monitoring, research, or public outreach the WHO has planned regarding the risks of accidental starvation.

WHO officials reported that they have not specifically studied the complications from exclusive breastfeeding and have no studies commissioned to monitor complications of the BFHI. The WHO convened a group of global infant nutrition experts last year to review and revise their guidelines, but no one on the panel raised the issue of complications as a priority for discussion.

As Kavin Senapathy reported in Forbes:

When asked whether WHO plans to inform mothers of the risks of brain injury from insufficient breast milk, and that temporary supplementation can prevent complications, Dr. Rollins responded that this recommendation was not identified as a “top priority.”

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not surprised that babies harmed by breastfeeding complications are not a priority for the WHO and the BFHI; they’ve made that very clear by their actions. I’m only surprised that they are willing to state it outright.

Sadly, breastfeeding advocates have become just like the Nestle Corporation that they so deplored. They’ve privileged the product over the outcome. In the case of Nestle, they aggressively promoted baby formula in Africa despite the fact that making formula with contaminated water harms babies. It was more important to them to promote their product than whether babies lived or died. In the case of the WHO and the BFHI, they aggressively promote breastfeeding despite the fact that up to 15% of mothers may have difficulty producing suffient breastmilk. It is more important to them to promote their product than whether babies live or die.

In response to this news, Jillian Johnson, a mother and advocate whose newborn son Landon died five years ago from complications of starvation at a BFHI hospital states, “I am appalled by the lack of concern shown by the WHO regarding such an important issue. I shared the pain of losing my son by a senseless practice and they aren’t interested in preventing it from happening to other families.”

You may remember the tragedy of Landon Johnson that his mother [pictured above] shared with the Fed Is Best Foundation, If I Had Given Him Just One Bottle, He Would Still Be Alive:

Landon cried. And cried. All the time. He cried unless he was on the breast and I began to nurse him continuously. The nurses would come in and swaddle him in warm blankets to help get him to sleep. And when I asked them why he was always on my breast, I was told it was because he was “cluster feeding.” I recalled learning all about that in the classes I had taken, and being a first time mom, I trusted my doctors and nurses to help me through this – even more so since I was pretty heavily medicated from my emergency c-section and this was my first baby…

So we took him home … not knowing that after less than 12 hours home with us, he would have gone into cardiac arrest caused by dehydration…

I am also appalled by the lack of concern shown by the WHO and the BFHI for babies harmed by breastfeeding complications. If you feel the same way, please sign the Change.org petition imploring the them to revise their guidelines to alert parents an providers to the signs of insufficient breastmilk and and how to judiciously supplement with formula to prevent both brain injuries — from hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), dehydration and severe jaundice — and deaths.

Nothing will bring back babies who have already died or reverse brain injuries that have already occured. Nothing will assuage their parents’ heartbreak. But we can hope that publicizing the signs and symptoms of insufficient breastmilk as well as the treatments will prevent similar tragedies. Both the WHO and BFHI should do everything in their power to prevent future breastfeeding injuries and deaths.

Sign the petition here!

  • maidmarian555

    If this wasn’t proof enough that the WHO have utterly lost the plot, according to the news this morning, they’ve just appointed Robert Mugabe as a ‘Goodwill Ambassador’. You literally couldn’t make this crap up!

    • maidmarian555
      • Heidi_storage

        When did the Onion acquire the BBC?

        • maidmarian555

          I think it was somewhen around the same time Brexit happened. Certainly feels like it anyway….

        • Merrie

          That’s nothing new, American news has sounded like something out of the Onion since about the beginning of the 2016 presidential campaign.

    • Russell Jones

      Good God Almighty. They probably wanted Charles Taylor, but he’s busy serving a 50-year stretch for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

      • Sarah

        Mugabe’s a reasonable effort in his absence though. The Gukurahundi might not have been quite as awful as the Liberian civil wars, but 30,000 dead is nothing to be sniffed at. Hopefully when that cancer kills him, it’s painful.

    • Empress of the Iguana People

      That makes as much sense as asking Ray Charles to drive a city bus

    • namaste

      Are you fucking kidding me? Mugabe destroyed an otherwise beautiful country. I’ve been there, Zimbabwe is a mess

    • Dr Kitty

      I think it’s the UN who made that bizarre decision, not WHO.

      . My mother is Zimbabwean.
      My social media is basically a whole lot of people saying “WTF!!!! Really????”

      My uncle is a paediatric surgeon. He used to work in Bulawayo. In 2003, when he hadn’t been paid for three months and it didn’t look like he was going to be paid anytime, soon he and my aunt packed up everything they could and left for Australia.

      At my cousin’s wedding in London earlier this year I had a long chat with his best man and the best man’s two brothers- all doctors, all currently working in North America because they were literally working for free in Zim with no resources. They are paediatricians and a neonatologist. They didn’t want to leave Zim, but couldn’t see a future there for themselves and their children.

      Mugabe should be in jail, not on anyone’s diplomatic guest list.

  • Amazed

    Let’s hope the World Breast Organization gets a little ashamed. I know, I know I’m an optimist but still…

    They have completely lost the plot. It’s one thing to say that they haven’t been following deaths and damages after the strict implementation of BFHI murdering rules. But someone did it for them and they said preventing PROVEN deaths is not a priority?Excuse me, I’ll be back as soon as I’m done throwing up.

  • Steph858

    I actually agree with WHO that informing mothers about complications from exclusive breastfeeding isn’t a ‘top priority’.

    The ‘top priority’ is to ensure that everyone in the world has access to clean and safe drinking water (a good thing in general, but specifically so that formula can be made safely) and that all mothers have access to safe and affordable formula.

    We can start by diverting all the resources currently used to ‘promote breastfeeding’ towards these endeavours.

    • Roadstergal

      Good lord, yes. Can you imagine? Clean water to make formula for babies! Clean water for breastfeeding moms to drink! Clean water for toddlers and young children! Clean water for working adults! Clean water for the elderly!

      Aw, but something something Nestle anything that makes formula work is Bad.

  • guest

    This is just unconscionable.

    How can the staff of the WHO have this little empathy?

    Their whole policy sounds like Scrooge from a Christmas Carol:

    “If they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population!”

  • guest

    Do people ever listen to Change.org petitions?

    • Heidi_storage

      I doubt it, but I signed anyway.

  • Heidi_storage

    Let’s take a look at this Wikipedia table on global prevalence of breastfeeding shall we?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_and_culture_of_breastfeeding
    The following table shows the uptake of exclusive breastfeeding.[34][35]

    Country Percentage Year Type of feeding
    Armenia 0.7% 1993 Exclusive
    20.8% 1997 Exclusive
    Benin 13% 1996 Exclusive
    16% 1997 Exclusive
    Bolivia 59% 1989 Exclusive
    53% 1994 Exclusive
    Central African Republic 4% 1995 Exclusive
    Chile 97% 1993 Predominant
    Colombia 19% 1993 Exclusive
    95% (16%) 1995 Predominant (exclusive)
    Dominican Republic 14% 1986 Exclusive
    10% 1991 Exclusive
    Ecuador 96% 1994 Predominant
    Egypt 68% 1995 Exclusive
    Ethiopia 78% 2000 Exclusive
    Mali 8% 1987 Exclusive
    12% 1996 Exclusive
    Mexico 37.5% 1987 Exclusive
    Niger 4% 1992 Exclusive
    Nigeria 2% 1992 Exclusive
    Pakistan 12% 1988 Exclusive
    25% 1992 Exclusive
    Poland 1.5% 1988 Exclusive
    17% 1995 Exclusive
    Saudi Arabia 55% 1991 Exclusive
    Senegal 7% 1993 Exclusive
    South Africa 10.4% 1998 Exclusive
    Sweden 55% 1992 Exclusive
    98% 1990 Predominant
    61% 1993 Exclusive
    Thailand 90% 1987 Predominant
    99% (0.2%) 1993 Predominant (exclusive)
    4% 1996 Exclusive
    United Kingdom[36] 62% 1990
    66% 1995
    Zambia 13% 1992 Exclusive
    23% 1996 Exclusive
    Zimbabwe 12% 1988 Exclusive
    17% 1994 Exclusive
    38.9% 1999 Exclusive

    Look at the highest numbers–over 90% of babies being breastfed. Note how in every case, this is “Predominant” breastfeeding–not exclusive! It’s almost as if breastfeeding works BEST when supplemented with other methods….

    • CSN0116

      While prelacteal feeding is a big duh and 100% logical and even life saving —

      Pretty sure we have some solid evidence showing that EBF for 6 months is linked to negative things, like an increase in food allergies.

      So prelacteal feeding aside, why would a health organization encourage something that has been shown to negatively impact health? How are these people allowed to circumvent every evidence based standard?! Who are they? How? How? How?!

  • Russell Jones

    /s/

    Would’ve signed in any event, but the reference to the worldwide criminal enterprise known as Nestle sealed it. Any outfit that believes it has some sort of noble Galtian prerogative to own, control access to, and profit from water – WATER, ffs – is utterly depraved through and through.

  • TheArtistFormerlyKnownAsYoya

    Nearly 600 signatures already! Fantastic!

  • Amy Tuteur, MD

    Over 570 signatures and climbing!!

  • Empress of the Iguana People

    That is appalling. Merciful aardvarks, i hope it was someone misspeaking

    • Emilie Bishop

      It’s not. They have zero concept of how EBF can be anything less than fabulous.

  • MaineJen

    I understand that the WHO works with mothers and babies all over the world. Do they tell 3rd world moms who don’t have enough breast milk that they’re not a priority? Or do moms all over the world quietly supplement for the first few days/a week and just not tell the nosy WHO person?

    • Young CC Prof

      Pretty much, yeah, except when they’re in hospitals where it’s literally banned.

      There’s a lot of people who learned about breastfeeding from a book about theoretical models, going up to people who breastfed 8 children and learned from watching mothers and aunts as they grew up, that they are doing it WRONG.

  • CSN0116

    Behold, Laurence Grummer-Strawn. The man who says our babies are not of priority. Well, if he doesn’t look like a “breast feeding expert,” I dont know who does?

    Ever want to slap a smile off of someone’s face more than this chipper appearing asshole?

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/59d7e5f38d66ce9452b84786cf9cf3fc69fb2715d3c1dd5957814b1a26892b61.jpg

    • MaineJen

      Put this one and Paul Ryan in a room, and let the slapping begin. We’ll form a line, it’ll be very orderly.

      • Charybdis

        Can I use a barbed-wire wrapped Louisville Slugger or is it limited to “hands only”?

        • MaineJen

          We’ll get back to you

      • Roadstergal

        I used to think that Ted Cruz had the most punchable face I’d ever seen. He faces stiff competition these days.

      • Merrie

        I used to really, really want to punch Paul Ryan in the nose, but these days it’s hard to decide who I want to punch in the nose most.

    • Charybdis

      I’d prefer some sort of slow torture, personally. Or giving him a newborn infant, 10 cc’s of formula and an SNS and telling him to “get on with it!” No help, except to keep telling him that “breast is best!”, “Try a different hold!”, “Get skin-to-skin with your baby!”, “They only need drops!”, “…marble sized stomach, blah, blah, blah…” Bombard him with all the rhetoric, propaganda and misinformation women are subjected to thanks to BFHI, WHO and lactivists. He would only get 5-10 cc of formula at a time (every 4 hours or so) to feed the baby with. Oh, and he has to be the only one to tend to the baby. No handing off to someone else; IT’S ALL YOU, BUDDY!

      Or put some teeny rocks into his tire valve caps so that he gets slow air leaks from all four tires constantly. Because nobody ever checks IN the valve caps. *insert maniacal giggle here*

    • Emilie Bishop

      He reminds me of Jared Kushner. Ugh, the overseer of the program that made my postpartum period absolute hell reminds me of the son-in-law of the baffoon making my post-postpartum period hell.

  • J.B.

    It just came home to me that I was lucky to survive breastfeeding myself (low supply was never my problem, plenty else was.)

  • CSN0116

    I know FIB has some 40k story submissions, many regarding BFHI harm. God do I hope they are encouraging people to submit during this open comment time. Or that they just copy/paste that into one giant document and plop it with WHO.

    • Emilie Bishop

      I shared mine on their feedback form. I hope lots of others do the same. Also signed the petition.

  • mostlyclueless

    The same WHO that thinks there should be a 10-15% c-section rate, happily ignoring evidence to the contrary (https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2473490)? Yeah, screw those guys.

    • Sarah

      They don’t any more, haven’t for a few years, but they allowed themselves to be bullshitted into advocating for one in the first place.

      • Casual Verbosity

        And they also didn’t exactly go out of their way to make it widely and comprehensively known that a) they no longer advocate it, and b) the reason they no longer advocate it is because it was a bull-shit number plucked out of thin air.

  • aurora

    I don’t consider the who an authority on anything lol.

  • CSN0116

    I became outraged at WHO, and have literally no interest in what they say, when I read in Jung’s “Lactivism” about how they have done nothing to save babies from HIV transmission via breast milk in developing countries, because rigging ways to safely and reliably formula feed these babies would interfere far too much with their zealous breastfeeding “goals.”

    Fuck WHO.

    • Empress of the Iguana People

      is it inapproprite that i’m amused by your pun?

  • Young CC Prof

    Decades ago, the WHO’s breastfeeding team set a goal of seeing “nearly all” babies exclusively breastfed from birth to six months. At that time, no country on Earth had breastfeeding numbers anywhere near that. After 25 years of breastfeeding promotion… no country on Earth has breastfeeding numbers anywhere near that.

    Six months of exclusivity, with no solids, is probably not an appropriate goal even in low-resource environments, because a lot of babies will become iron-depleted or fall on the growth chart between 4 and 6 months if not offered appropriate complementary foods.

    And at the beginning of life, at least 20% of mothers have onset of lactation delayed enough to put the baby’s health at risk.

    The WHO’s targets are unachievable, and trying to achieve them has harmed countless babies and mothers.

    • Empress of the Iguana People

      Aye. Some kids aren’t much interestest but we have Entlings who were reaching for food at 4 months exactly from their due dates.

  • Jillian Johnson

    Thank you Amy for not letting Landon’s death be in vain!!

    • Heidi_storage

      We’re so sorry that you had to suffer this terrible loss. Any decent person is not going to want other parents to go through the Hell you experienced.

      • Jarrod N Jillian Johnson

        Thank you <3

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      It’s the least that I can do!

    • Empress of the Iguana People

      *hugs* what Heidi said.