Breastfeeding promotion causes brain damage

cheerful boy with disability at rehabilitation center for kids with special needs

Yes, you read that right, the aggressive promotion of breastfeeding by the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative has led to an epidemic of newborn brain damage.

No less an authority than Lawrence Gartner, MD, member of the BFHI Board of Directors has admitted that 90% of kernicterus cases are attributable to breastfeeding! Sadly, Dr. Gartner acknowledged it only to other breastfeeding professionals. Parents and pediatricians have been left in the dark.

Breastfeeding is responsible for over 90% of jaundice-induced brain damage.

What is kernicterus?

Children’s Mercy Hospital Kansas City has an easy to understand explanation for lay people:

Kernicterus is a form of brain damage caused by excessive jaundice. The substance which causes jaundice, bilirubin, is so high that it can move out of the blood into brain tissue.

Kernicterus is disastrous for babies:

When babies begin to be affected by excessive jaundice, when they begin to have brain damage, they become excessively lethargic. They are too sleepy, and they are difficult to arouse – either they don’t wake up from sleep easily like a normal baby, or they don’t wake up fully, or they can’t be kept awake. They may have a high-pitched cry, and decreased muscle tone, becoming hypotonic or floppy with episodes of increased muscle tone (hypertonic) and arching of the head and back backwards. As the damage continues they may arch their heads back into a very contorted position known as opisthotonus or retrocollis, they may develop fever, and they may even develop seizures (convulsions).

The jaundice is caused by breastfeeding induced starvation.

It is important to understand that In 2017, kernicterus is an iatrogenic injury. It is astoundingly easy to prevent; judicious formula supplementation will prevent it 100% of the time.

The slides for Dr. Gartner’s lecture to the California Breastfeeding Summit are chilling.

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The most common cause of kernicterus used to be Rh incompatibility; and Rh- negative mother attacked the red blood cells of her Rh+ baby. With the advent of Rhogam, Rh incompatibility is only rarely a problem.

As Dr. Gartner pointed out:

We thought kernicterus had disappeared! It has not! … What types of infants are still having kernicterus? All kinds of children – but one type has emerged recently as predominant.

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Breastfed infants: 90% of all cases of kernicterus especially with weight loss in excess of 10%.

The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine suggests that the contribution of breastfeeding starvation may be even higher.

In the U.S. Kernicterus Registry, a database of 125 cases of kernicterus in infants discharged as healthy newborns, 98% of these infants were fully or partially breastfed …

As a result of aggressive breastfeeding promotion, those babies were allowed to starve.

Strong evidence suggests that increased serum bilirubin in the first few days is highly correlated with suboptimal enteral in- take; serum bilirubin concentrations are highly associated with greater weight loss in breastfed infants.

In summary:

  • We are experiencing an epidemic of jaundice-induced brain damage (kernicterus) in newborns.
  • Between 90-98% of cases are the direct results of aggressive breastfeeding promotion.
  • In every one of those cases, brain damage could have been completely prevented by formula supplementation.
  • Kernicterus is almost non-existent in formula fed babies.

If we care about babies, the solution is obvious: Every baby should be aggressively monitored for adequate breastmilk intake and when there is any doubt about intake, babies should be supplemented with formula.

We could EASILY prevent 100% of breastfeeding starvation jaundice by feeding at risk babies (those who have lost 10% of body weight or have elevated bilirubin above physiological levels). It would cost very little, only a tiny fraction of the cost of hospital readmissions, phototherapy, and subsequent treatment for brain injuries.

But lactation professionals are apparently more interested in promoting breastfeeding than in promoting infant health.

It may be necessary to supplement with infant formula if neither own mothers’ milk nor donor human milk is available. The impact of introducing formula to an exclusively breastfed infant must be considered.

Wait, what? We are talking about preventing brain damage!

From the paper Impact of bilirubin-induced neurologic dysfunction on neurodevelopmental outcomes:

Kernicterus most usually is characterized by choreoathetoid cerebral palsy (CP), impaired upward gaze, and sensorineural hearing loss, whereas cognition is relatively spared…

But levels below that needed to cause kernicterus can also result in brain injuries:

Clinically, BIND [bilirubin induced neurologic dysfunction] may manifest after the neonatal period as developmental delay, cognitive impairment, disordered executive function, and behavioral and psychiatric disorders…

There is no possible impact of formula on breastfeeding that is even remotely worth considering compared to preventing cerebral palsy, hearing loss, cognitive impairment, disordered executive function and other behavioral and psychiatric disorders. The benefits of breastfeeding in industrialized countries are trivial and certainly pale into insignificance besides these risks.

What is going on here?

Sadly, a group of health professionals has become so invested in a process – breastfeeding – that they are willing to destroy baby’s brains in order to protect that process.

Indeed, as Kavin Senapathy reported in Forbes:

When asked [by the Fed Is Best Foundation] 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.”

The bottom line is that we’ve spent the last 30 years aggressively promoting breastfeeding and all we have to show for it is an epidemic of iatrogenic brain damage.

Protecting babies brains is infinitely more important than protecting breastfeeding.

 

As of today, 4300 parents and professionals have signed the petition to implore the WHO to make breastfeeding induced brain injuries a priority. Please join them.

  • Alice, London

    In one of the top London hospitals two years ago, our baby was allowed to go without any milk for over 24 hours after my elective c section because we were never told he might not be getting any milk (my milk hadn’t arrived by then) and were constantly reassured that colostrum was enough. He was already borderline small for gestational age, and he lost at least 10% of his weight. 24 hrs after the birth, I figured out myself that something was wrong because he was becoming increasingly lethargic and just sleeping all the time. Thankfully the diehard breastapo midwife who had been in charge overnight was replaced by a lovely nurse trainee who immediately offered formula when I voiced my concerns. I shudder to think what might have happened to our lovely bright boy if I hadn’t been on the ball, despite being in recovery from my surgery. Literally no one mentioned that he might not be getting enough milk. As it happened, I never really had much milk owing to hypothyroidism – only a tiny amount, too little for even one feed. But we never allowed him to go without after that.
    When my brother’s daughter was born, in a US hospital, I warned him about this issue. He is a neurologist, but even they were unable to avoid this problem, and their baby had to be readmitted to hospital because of jaundice.
    The decision not to share accurate and relevant knowledge is criminal: you think your baby is finally safe and all the while, unbeknownst to you, he is being exposed to unnecessary and serious risk.
    Part of what made me question everything I was told by midwives was my reading of this blog all through my pregnancy. I still read it today, it has made my baby safe.

    • Lilly de Lure

      Mine too – DS’d be one of the NHS’s appallingly high stillbirth statistics if I hadn’t read this blog and learnt what was and wasn’t ominous in a foetal heart trace.

      • Alice, London

        I know what you mean, Lilly! We also worried about stillbirth, went in for quite a few non stress tests and learnt about heart trace monitoring – especially after the midwife was so clueless once that she didn’t notice she hadn’t connected the baseline. Despite constant reassurances that all was normal, when he came out he was borderline sga. You can’t be too careful…

  • cw

    I was really upset to see the news that unsafe levels arsenic and lead had been detected in several baby formulas and foods. The brand i used for my last kid wasn’t on the list of formulas studied bc it was a store brand. I don’t know what to do about this information. It is a human caused problem that can be solved, unlike the inherent problems with breastfeeding discussed here. It seems like there was one news cycle about it and now no one cares. I suppose water safety in places like flint can make formula unsafe too. This seems like a community that might be able to organize to make formula safer. Lactivists will only push a “everyone breastfeed” response to the problem.

  • aurora

    This is why i am bringing formula with me for my elective c-section in May.

  • Eater of Worlds

    I’m actually deaf from kernicterus. I also have a learning disability. I can tell ya, it’s so fun having to deal with that, and my kernicterus damage is considered mild.

  • CSN0116

    EBF and no food for 6 months has also helped out with the peanut allergy epidemic. How many additional billions can we rack up there?

    • Bamba helps prevent peanut allergy in small children. Another major Israeli invention.

      • E F

        They’re also tasty! Thanks for reminding me I should order more for my kiddo (and me).

      • Empress of the Iguana People

        We had that covered with the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches little miss was stealing out of my hand at 4 months old

        • I shudder at the thought of what a toothless baby could do with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich

          • Empress of the Iguana People

            It was pretty gross, lol

  • Allie

    This brings back some fond memories. My introduction to motherhood was a baptism of fire. After an emergent cesarean for pre-eclampsia so severe I was unable to see out of both eyes (hello scotoma!), I didn’t have a drop of breastmilk to feed my ‘big preemie’.
    I have never fought anyone so hard and so viciously in my life as I fought that BFHI nurse over a bottle of formula. I asked, pleaded, cajoled, raised my voice and in the end resorted to downright threatening her. All this while hooked up to a piece of plastic in nearly every body cavity and unable to get out of bed (100% rooming in, of course!). In the end I got the formula only because I was yelling so loud the other patients were complaining.
    I was ‘punished’ for my disobedience by curtailing my own nursing care: the nurses were downright rude, kept mentioning how I didn’t try hard enough, my call light was always the very last one they responded to.
    And now, 5 years later we have this this sorry, unethical excuse for a doctor who is responsible for the ideological system that tortured me. He finally admits that the clear and present danger to my child wasn’t all in my mind. It was real and could have killed or maimed her.
    Well, guess what, Dr BFHI, you may not have gotten me to breastfeed. What you did teach me is to be a mom who stands up for what her child needs no matter who she needs to piss off in the process. Thank you for that valuable lesson. I hope you and your cronies will soon go down in the flaming public health scandal you deserve.

  • What appears to be the exact opposite of the “Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative”:

    http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-life-and-religion/246327/maternity-ward-to-luxury-suite

    • anh

      I gave birth almost 4 weeks ago in an insanely posh UK hospital. For 4 nights I just focused on resting, eating, and pumping when I was up for it, as my daughter was treated in a nearby hospital. While it was painful being apart from her, it made my recovery from a csection 473 million times easier than recovery from my daughter’s vaginal delivery. Seriously made all the difference in the world. When I think about having to try to care for a baby that first night post csection I want to cry. It’s barbaic we expect this of women

      • There’s a reason labor is called “labor” [and not just in English]. It’s damn hard work. Women need to rest afterwards, even if it takes a while for the adrenalin rush to dissipate and they think they’re on top of the world.

  • Amazed

    OK, let’s put this into context.

    In 1945, my grandmother gave birth to her first with the village midwife. It was the WWII and for a year, we have been involved in the battles. Villagers suffered by the necessity to provide for the army, a Soviet occupation and the local Communists whose coup a year ago had plunged the country into a reign of terror. They took whatever they wanted. They actually had legal proceedings against dead people so they could seize their property by declaring them enemies of the people. Hunger was a given. In this situation, my grandmother had milk for about forty glorious days. Forty days. Since then, she fed her baby whatever milk she could find, clear soups, bread soaked in wine. Sounds like the optimal baby food, right?

    You know what? Her baby survived. Life there, brain cells all there.

    In 21st century, in a country not in the grasp of war, babies die and suffer brain damage because formula isn’t optimal enough? So, war, starvation, and bread in wine lead to better outcomes than prosperity, naturalness, and devotion to breastfeeding in the unlucky ones? Anyone seeing this as monstrously wrong?

    BTW, my grandmother WAS a natcherel goddess. Short labours, easy birth and enough milk to feed an army when she wasn’t freaked out of her mind and starving. Perhaps someone should remind these natcherel freaks that even Olympian goddesses ate ambrosia?

    • E F

      Your grandma raised her baby “by hand”; a really common practice of basically feeding babies soup. Huge portions of the population worldwide have been raised by hand (how the hell were orphans eating, huh NCBers? HUH?), and NCB never, ever addresses it. It’s almost like being raised “by hand” is part of the natural human life! Imagine that! Human life, being complicated and requiring flexibility? What? WHAT?

      (sorry for all the sarcasm, I’m low on patience today due to a teething baby with a cold. Your grandma was a badass)

      • Amazed

        Thank you. Yes, she was. Including going to the nearby town close to her estimated due date with her third because she was damned afraid she’d go to see the cow and end up giving birth in the cow shed in some 20 minutes, given the fact that she was about to have a talk with the doctors about how she was not in labour with her second and sit down – right on the baby’s head! Talk about painless birth! The experience scared her mightily. She was not in natcherel mind enough to understand it proved her inherent goddess nature.

  • Empress of the Iguana People

    I still feel guilty about my boy loosing 11% before we were directed by a Nurse Practitioner to get him formula to supplement on his 3 day appointment. He dropped from 75% to 50% and my girl, ff from the beginning, has been cruising steadily on the 75% arc. She’s wearing the footed pjs her elder brother was wearing LAST YEAR. She’s 17 mo and he’s 4.

    • guest

      I could have written the exact same thing, guilt and all. And now we are in the process of having my oldest evaluated for ADHD and I’m wondering if his rough beginning was part of the cause? It sure didn’t help.

  • Tara Coombs Lohman

    My first thought was “what percentage of this brain-damage is being blamed on the Hepatitis B vaccine or the vitamin K shot” by the internet sources and Mommy blogs that these poor parents end up reading afterward?

    • Melissa Wickersham

      That is a scary thought, Tara. You may be right. The mothers and fathers of all those brain damaged EBF babies might misblame vaccines for what happened to their kids…when what really happened was that those kids essentially starved.

    • Merrie

      It does seem to me like there are an awful lot of moms on MDC and other crunchy boards who have kids with sensory issues, and I wonder if there’s a connection with difficult births and/or feeding issues.

      • Wren

        I’d love to know. Then again, sensory issues are kind of the In thing now.

        • Roadstergal

          As are ‘food sensitivities,’ which makes it harder to dissect out how much the >6 month EBF push is contributing to real food allergy…

  • Daleth

    Thank god my twins were born at a non-BFHI hospital. I was NOT WELL due to almost dying of a postpartum hemorrhage, and I fortunately hadn’t read up on breastfeeding (I planned to do it but figured it would just work, so what was there to read up on?).

    So when the nurses were like, “Baby A’s blood sugar is a little low, we brought this bottle of formula to give him,” I was like, “Oh really? Okay, great–just take care of him!” At least 2-3 times they came in, did a heel stick to check his sugar, and gave him formula.

    THANK… THE… GODS.

  • Felice

    What a crock of shit.

    • Emilie Bishop

      I’m truly glad your baby didn’t suffer any of these or other complications because your care team cared more about your breasts than you or your baby. If that ever happened to your family, you’d know THAT was the real, as you put it, “crock of shit.”

    • Charybdis

      Can you be a little more specific as to what you are defining as “a crock of shit”?

      • Platos_Redhaired_Stepchild

        Its a troll. Just flag hush or dismiss and ignore them.

  • Erin

    The BFHI is still being taught in my CNM program as a desirable goal for hospitals and sound steps of breastfeeding promotion, despite emerging evidence to the contrary. It’s infuriating how in one course, they stress CNM students focus on evidence-based care, while denying/ignoring the most recent evidence against some of their favorite beliefs in other courses (BF leading to higher IQ, for example). Midwifery education is rife with hypocrisy, and I’m learning the deeper down the rabbit hole I go. I am disappointed in many of my professors and colleagues for cherry-picking the science that only supports their zealotry. Blind obedience to the religion of natural birth and breastfeeding is NOT the kind of CNM I want to be, and has left me feeling very much like a wolf in sheep’s clothing among my peers, because I support autonomy, choice, and science above some misguided or outdated midwifery tenets.

    • Gæst

      You are not alone! I used a CNM practice and they spouted none of that nonsense with me.

      • Erin

        That is reassuring!! I guess I’m in the center of the echo chamber right now, so it’s hard to find the other like-minded midwives (I think because we all know to keep our mouths shut until we get that certification; I do give my professors a piece of my mind in the anonymous course evals though). I struggled to find a preceptor for my clinical rotations. Then I was so relieved to find one, but what very disheartened to learn she’s pretty woo-woo; and we share some major philosophical differences (I don’t automatically turn to unproven alternative remedies as first line treatment, for example). I just have to take a deep breath, keep my head down as a student. I’ll hold tight to the like-minded colleagues I find on the other side of this degree.

  • CSN0116

    I’m not trying to reduce children – people – to money. But it’s no secret that children with mild to moderate learning disabilities and cognitive/motor delays have skyrocketed in recent years (for more than this reason, I understand). This puts a huge financial strain on early intervention programs, head start and special education resources within schools. This breastfeeding promotion could be responsible for literally BILLIONS of dollars in health care and education-related expenses that go well outside of newborn readmission rates.

    • Charybdis

      But, but, but….breastfeeding SAVES so much money! Better health outcomes for baby and mother! It is purported to save UNTOLD amounts of money for the healthcare system! It simply CANNOT actually COST money and INCREASE health care costs!

      Lactivist heads must be exploding right now,….

      • Gæst

        Nah, they’re in full denial mode, as usual.

  • Charlène Fortin

    My first born was jaundiced for a long time, they told me not to worry, that it was ‘breastfeeding jaundice’, like it made it better even though she was yellow for over a month! I supplemented for the first few weeks and thankfully she’s alright!

  • Heidi

    Breastfeed 12 times a day?! Do nothing but breastfeed around the clock for days. The BFHI is so anti-woman, it’s sickening (literally and figuratively).

    • Emilie Bishop

      Yup, and then triple-feeding on top of that if your supply is low. I was told every 3 hours, but triple-feeding took an hour each time. So. Effing. Exhausting.

      • Tigger_the_Wing

        I had to Google ‘triple-feeding’; it sounds like an utter nightmare, a torture devised by someone utterly evil. I never had a low supply; against all the odds my body loved making milk in gigantic quantities. But there is no way I would have pumped more than once a day; it hurt! I have no idea how you did it. I’m really impressed at your persistence. I would have thrown the machine through a window. Preferably at the person who advised it.

    • Erin

      Because it rests on the assumption that every woman can and does want to breastfeed. You can throw their fallacious logic back in their faces all you want but they continue to double down, and moms and babies suffer for it. smdh

    • crazy mama, PhD

      The postpartum group I’ve been attending is run by a doula/LC. It’s a great group for general mom support and she seems to have worked with the hospital long enough to not be into the really wacky pseudoscience. Every so often, though, some weird breastfeeding woo slips out. Today it was, “Babies shouldn’t go longer than 4 hours between feedings until they’re 6 months old.” And she meant round-the-clock, not just during the day. Which… no.

      • Empress of the Iguana People

        I got lucky and mine were sleeping through the night early. Not waking the baby up to feed him if he is sound asleep.

        • Tigger_the_Wing

          The only time I ever broke that rule was if one of the twins woke and the other didn’t. The sleeping one got woken and fed too. That way I got at least three hours’ sleep at a stretch. I wasn’t about to let them tag-team; I’d never have had any sleep at all.

      • maidmarian555

        6 whole months of not getting to sleep more than 4hrs at a time would have driven me utterly insane. And what if baby is sleeping? Are they suggesting you should wake your happily sleeping baby to feed? I mean, that makes sense for a newborn but for a 6mo?! Why?! Why would anyone do that to themselves for no good reason?!

        • crazy mama, PhD

          I don’t know, but I suspect the lactivist community came up with this idea as a way to rationalize BF babies that wake up a lot. A normal 6-month-old might not sleep all the way through the night, but baby that either isn’t getting enough to eat or that never learned any way of self-soothing without the breast will wake up frequently. I can see lactivist logic going: BFing is perfect and the solution to all baby cries –> it’s OK that this particular older baby wakes up and nurses frequently –> obviously this is what all babies need.

          More generally, lactivists and attachment parents seem convinced that all babies should be treated like newborns.

          • maidmarian555

            It feels sometimes like they just want to make parenting as hard as possible. Some babies are good sleepers, others are awful at it. The idea that you would deliberately mislead parents and tell them that mums *shouldn’t* be getting more than 4hrs sleep at a time for months on end is horrible. It’s basically encouraging women to torture themselves, even if they really don’t have any reason to suffer from sleep deprivation (because even if you do everything ‘right’ you can still be unlucky and have a bad sleeper). It’s really cruel.

          • Heidi

            I was one of those unfortunate ones who had a bad sleeper and a snacker when it came to bottles. He was still only taking four ounces max at a year old despite our best efforts and fast flow nipples. I want to say he was 10 months or so before he dropped his middle of the night feed (which we also tried to eliminate earlier with zero success. It was torture and I don’t know why anyone would seek it! My husband and I both gained weight just because I was too tired to cook most the time so we ate convenience foods, take out or went out to eat, and because eating was the only thing pleasurable to do when you are that tired with a baby. At that age, at least most the care involves feeding and diaper changes because I didn’t have the energy to really be present. Now that I’m back to getting a reasonable amount of sleep most nights, I know I’m doing a lot better with this whole parenting thing and I’ve lost over 40 lbs.

          • maidmarian555

            You poor thing! We were lucky that my son slept well at night (naps are still a bit of an ongoing battle, even now he is 18mnths) from when he was a few months old. I found the early weeks almost unbearable at times, I had no idea how important sleep is to me until I found myself unable to sleep when I really needed to! I do think a big part of it is down to luck, we aren’t doing anything differently with Little Miss but she has a totally different sleep pattern and naps well during the day but so far (and admittedly she’s only 6wks old so we aren’t expecting miracles) she’s never managed more than 4/5hrs at night in one go (and that’s not every night). I take the shift getting her down to sleep and OH gets up and gives her a bottle in the morning. We are coping much better this time, I guess even though we now have two the change to our lives has been much less of a shock! It just never occurred to me that rather than saying “some babies are good sleepers, some are not and if yours isn’t that’s pretty normal” that anyone would be saying “babies should be awful sleepers and if you have one that sleeps well, please make sure you get up twice a night for no good reason so that everyone is super-tired, grumpy and can’t function” to new parents. I need sleep to be a good mother, I can’t manage at all without it.

          • Heidi

            I don’t know how I managed looking back, but I did have my in-laws help out quite a bit and feel no guilt over that. I miss some sleep one night anymore and can’t function. Although, I’d argue I wasn’t exactly functioning back then. I’d have meltdowns where I’d take my anger out on inanimate objects behind closed doors. One time I just decided to sling my perfectly good coffee everywhere. Maybe I was angry that it was doing nothing for my sleep deprivation?

          • Tigger_the_Wing

            Only coffee? I admire your restraint.

            I once picked up a rocking chair and threw it across the room, breaking the door off its hinges. Sleep-deprived and starving (undiagnosed cœliac, so my enormous appetite wasn’t doing much), I was severely underweight after a terrible third pregnancy in as many years and I just snapped. After that episode, I got more help!

          • Heidi

            It wasn’t only coffee, but no furniture! I slung a bowl of baby cereal and it went all over the ceiling and I destroyed a mini stapler and a grill lighter. None of those themselves angered me, but they were there and not too important so I figured better them than a person. Those are the things I can remember at least. Next baby, I might invest in some boxing gloves and a punching bag!

  • CSN0116

    Twenty-two-year-old me was keen to this, thank GOD. But only because I had been privy to the breast feeding industry, and its byproducts, at age 19 (I worked in a high-end lactation boutique alongside an IBCLC). My 36-weeker twins were born and developed jaundice almost immediately. They were EFF and I had them taking two-ounce feeds every three hours by 48-hours-old. I was obsessed and methodical about it. They guzzled and guzzled, and ate and ate higher amounts from there. Flushed it right out.

    • Gæst

      I was all about my premature twins getting as much food as they needed. They were bottle fed expressed milk in the NICU, and the nurses had a strict limit on how much they were allowed to eat, with gradual increases over time. I wonder why breastfed babies can eat as much as they want, but not bottle fed babies?

      • sdsures

        “I wonder why breastfed babies can eat as much as they want, but not bottle fed babies?”

        Great question!

      • Merrie

        I think for preemies it has something to do as well with the amount of energy they expend feeding vs the amount they take in, and also the amount that their stomachs can handle–maybe they aren’t so good at figuring out when they are full since they’re premature. I know a lot of times preemies aren’t allowed to nurse until a certain point either for similar reasons.

        My friend had a micropreemie and she wasn’t allowed to breastfeed her for quite some time, and the baby never really got the hang of nursing, which turned out to be just as well because they wanted her to have fortified milk. My friend pumped for 3 months and she made so much extra that the baby was able to have EBM until 7 months.

  • Mel

    I’m aghast – and on the verge of tears.

    My twin sister’s hearing loss – profound in one ear; severe to profound in the other ear – was due to kernicterus.

    Back 36 years ago when we were born at 29 weeks gestation, there were no bili lights. The only treatment for elevated bilirubin levels was a complete blood transfusion – and that frequently killed the preemie.

    Long story short: my twin sister’s bili level sat between 15.7-15.9 for three weeks. If she hit 16, the neonatologists would have to do a total blood transfusion since her bili levels were so high she was dying anyways – but the cure would probably kill her as well.

    Her cochleas were fried during those three weeks – but damn, that’s a minor, minor price to pay compared to many preemies my parents knew. She’s also got a very minor case of choreoatheoid CP – but she was out of PT before she was school-aged; I think the only side effect of that was our family nickname of “Gumby” for her since her knees would move laterally when she went down hills on cross-country skis…..

    By comparison, my son’s highest billi level was a 5.2 – and he was placed under a bili light. My parents kept laughing with relief; it confused the nurses no end until they explained their experience 35 years before. They didn’t have to watch their grandson suffer – or watch their daughter and son-in-law face the same terrifying choices.

    Believe me; there is nothing in a “breastfeeding relationship” that’s worth your child’s hearing, cognitive development or muscle tone. A few ounces of formula can save parents an almost mind-boggling amount of time, energy and worry.

    The thought of launching a family into the amount of work my parents had and my husband and I had dealing with a medically complicated infant to avoid a few ounces of formula makes me sick.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      Back 36 years ago when we were born at 29 weeks gestation, there were no bili lights.

      That was a local issue, right? Because I remember kids under the bili lights when my oldest niece was born in 1981 (so 36 years ago), and the people then talked about it like it was common, so it wasn’t like some fancy-schmancy thing

      • Mel

        I don’t know; I was rather young at that point myself.

        Based on my short Google search, the transition to bili lights from wait-it-out happened in the early 1980’s – so maybe we were on the trailing end or your niece was on the leading edge.

        We were at Saginaw General which was the northern Michigan level 3 NICU equivalent when we were there in 1981 – and the neonatologist there spent lots of time phone conferencing with the neonatologists at Mott which was the nearest level 4 in Ann Arbor. That’s who helped determine if it was worth transporting my sister to St. Luke’s across town in Saginaw to get an MRI when she was having issues with hydrocephalus to see they could visualize the brain bleed.

        • Roadstergal

          (My mom was from Pinconning, we went through Saginaw when we would go visit her folks at the farm during the summer… memories…)

      • Gæst

        Oddly, I thought they had bili lights as far back as 1977, because I seem to recall my mother saying my brother was jaundiced and had to go under the lights. Wikipedia suggests the treatment was discovered in 1968, but that it took another 10 years for the practice to be established.

      • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

        I’m confused as I was born in 1961 and my mother remembers me being put under bili lights…I believe the therapy was discovered in the late ’50s

      • Tigger_the_Wing

        My eldest was born prem in 1981, and the only reason he had to wait to go under the lights was because there was another baby with even worse Rh-induced jaundice than he had.

        After that experience, my second was born the following year at a different hospital in a different town, with a NICU and much more equipment available.

    • Emilie Bishop

      Mel, this is truly awful. I’m sorry this happened to your family and I’m glad your sister has overcome so much (along with Spawn, of course!). Things like preterm birth and not having the right equipment to treat complications from birth are every parent’s nightmare. Why the damn BFHI feels the need to create additional nightmares is just beyond me.

    • Eater of Worlds

      If it’s any consolation, being deaf isn’t a terrible way to live.

  • Tori

    Things like this make me feel guilty. My first has a mild gross motor delay – likely due to a combination of factors one of which is low tone. There was jaundice but not to the point of needing treatment, but he was still a little yellow when we started supplementing. I’m sure the low tone was there from birth (family history) and probably was a contributing factor to poor weight initial gain with low oral tone along with my own lack of supply. But I really wish I’d started formula for him early, and that someone had suggested this to me.

    • Don’t feel guilty. You were sold a bill of goods about the importance of breastfeeding and the evils of formula.

    • NoLongerCrunching

      Agreed with Heidi. My exclusively breastfed (for 4.5 years) child has had the most medical problems of all 3 of my kids. Mothers blame themselves for *everything*.

      • Tori

        I think so.

    • Heidi

      I’m right there with you, except I don’t feel guilt. I feel anger and helplessness though. I was strung along – his blood sugar isn’t that low because: these glucose monitors aren’t meant for babies, well, the lab is showing an equally low blood sugar, but it’s not that low, he’s not acting like his blood sugar is low (he was sooo lethargic and couldn’t nurse without falling back asleep but I trusted the nurse).

      Well, he does need supplementation after all but we don’t want him to have nipple confusion so let’s feed this super sleepy baby with a syringe. He’s barely getting anything out of that syringe…but that’s not a big deal! Look at this bead on my badge – that’s all he needs!

      Okay, the syringe feeding isn’t working and his sugar is still low but the worst thing that could ever happen is nipple confusion so here’s an SNS. Let’s waste an hour of everyone’s time on a baby who refuses to latch with an SNS on your nipple…but still that nipple confusion. So I’m just gonna leave you here with a baby who still has hypoglycemia. Bye!

      This went on for over 24 hours until my night shift nurse got some disposable nipples, told me she’d never seen one case of nipple confusion (which I never was concerned about anyway), and his blood sugar was going to go up stat. It did.

      I have a child who is a slow talker though. It’s probably nothing, or if it’s something, it could totally be unrelated. Supposedly I was about 2 when I started to talk, my in-laws can’t tell us when my husband began to talk, my sister was slow to talk. None of us have an intellectual disability or any difficulty in school. My husband was exclusively formula fed, vaccinated and valedictorian . My sister and I did well academically and took AP classes and were mostly formula fed and vaccinated when my parents could be bothered, but I hate to even mention my concerns with my son online for fear the anti-vaxx, anti-formula vultures will swoop in.

      • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

        I don’t get the hospitals and their AUUUUGGHHHHHH Nipple confusion !!! Eleventy!! Umm so the kid maybe prefers bottles and formula because they can get more food faster and maybe sleep more before they are wicked hungry again….And? SNS and syringe feeding seem like the stupidest things I have ever heard of.

        My anecdata of 1 is that my exclusively formula fed, now 23 year old was an Honors student in high school, did drama and softball and lots of AP classes and went to college on a full ride scholarship. Possibly this result had more to do with having a good school system, middle-class parents and being an only child…But what do I know.

        • Roadstergal

          “Nipple confusion” should be renamed “nipple preference,” IMO.

          • Heidi

            Yep! My son wasn’t confused at all. He knew how to latch on my nipples even after being introduced to artificial nipples. But after a while, he just downright refused to waste his time with breastfeeding. I should’ve followed his lead really.

          • KeeperOfTheBooks

            FWIW, my MIL had 8, and fed them every way from exclusively FF to exclusively BF. Her theory–granted, anecdata, but she had a larger sample size than most–was that babies didn’t get nipple confusion, but some did get nipple *preference*. Like “oh, hey, food comes out of this nipple at the flow that I prefer, so I’d rather eat this way, thanks.”

          • Tigger_the_Wing

            Yes, my five ran the gamut from NG to EBF to EFF, and a variety of different bottle types for the ones on a bottle (whether formula or EBM). Their earliest feeding experience had no influence on their later feeding preferences. Anyway, as long as they are getting enough food why should anyone care how they get it?* It’s almost as if this has nothing to do with the health of the infant, but is entirely about punishing the women for having dared to have sex.

            *One of the twins does have hearing loss, but that was from birth; long *before* I switched him to a lactose-free formula because he was allergic to breast milk.

        • sdsures

          “Nipple confusion” sounds like bullshit, and that little bead thing is utter tripe.

      • Tori

        Yes, he was never tested for hypoglycaemia or blood levels taken for jaundice. Our paediatrician wasn’t concerned about either and said the jaundice was mild – except it hung around longer than I would have liked…

    • Gæst

      It is making me think, as well. My daughter was never diagnosed with jaundice while in the NICU, but after she came home she was so hard to get to wake and eat, and her weight gain stagnated. Her pediatrician monitored her weight closely and never suggested formula supplementation (or rather, he said “if he doesn’t pick up by the next visit we’ll have to consider it). She was bottle fed, so the problem wasn’t supply – she just fell asleep while eating. I seem to recall thinking at times she had a slight yellow tinge, but I assumed everything was fine since the doctor didn’t say anything. At any rate, she did turn things around and is a happy preschooler now, but she had gross motor delays and sometimes I think she might have ADHD. I wonder if high calorie formula is maybe a good idea for all low birth weight babies (and she was SGA) even if mother’s milk is in adequate supply. Who knows. Her brother did show jaundice in the hospital and went under the lights for one day.

    • Allie

      I wouldn’t torture yourself with the thought that you could have done something differently. I’m sure your LO is absolutely perfect : )

      • Tori

        He is perfect – but as a parent the thought you’d made life avoidably harder for your child is guilt inducing, even if your intentions at the time were good, and lack of knowledge and trust in the process meant you didn’t realise anyway. His physiotherapist says the feeding has nothing to do with his low tone, so I try to believe her.