Lactation professionals are harming babies … and they KNOW it

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I came across an extraordinary Facebook post yesterday.

It is extraordinary for four reasons:

1. A baby has been starved nearly to death in an effort to promote breastfeeding.

According to MilkMattersUk, the organization run by lactation consultant Charlotte Young (the Analytical Armadillo):

Meet H, a nearly 9 week old baby we met this weekend. H is just back at slightly above the weight at which they were born; we’ve plotted their birthweight and last weight into a growth chart, to give you a visual representation….

How did this horror happen?

Leah Drexler, Yashed LC, PRIVATELY acknowledges babies are starving, but PUBLICLY denies it.

“[O]ne midwife noted some concerns and suggested a feeding group, where they were told to stop expressing and supplementing, relax and just “feed feed feed”. Seen weekly at jaundice clinic, reluctant to weigh but did after mum pressure, no concerns noted.”

The baby was starving to death because healthcare providers apparently believed their own lies that insufficient breastmilk is rare and that all breastfeeding problems can be solved by breastfeeding harder.

Think — just for a moment — about the suffering this baby endured. He was forced to cannibalize his own body to survive 9 solid weeks of hunger.

2. Lactation professionals — who are responsible for this horror — posted the evidence because they want more MONEY.

H is a prime example of what happens when you strip maternity and child services of their budgets, staff and in some cases, the removal of the whole infant feeding team. H’s family sought private support after their concerns about growth were persistently dismissed, but never mind falling through the cracks, we’re falling off cliffs!

How could anyone be so willfully blind? This baby starved for 9 weeks because aggressive efforts to promote breastfeeding have already received TOO MUCH funding. There was no lack of support; there was TOO MUCH support for breastfeeding and not enough compassion for the suffering baby. But this — like every breastfeeding tragedy — is viewed by lactation professionals as an opportunity to promote themselves and their incomes.

3. Lactation professionals are aware that it happens ALL THE TIME and aren’t doing anything to stop it.

Look at these posts from the Facebook group LACTWORLD, a group run by Yashed LC (Leah Drexler), commenting on this starving baby.

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1. These are the reasons Fed Is Best exist — as much as I hate it, first we have to prevent this from happening systematically
2. Yes we have colleagues guilty of perpetuating this and even whole health systems that desperately need to be remediated
3. These are the things that make me rate in my own outpatient/Peds clinical practice …

So lactation professionals KNOW that this is happening, see it in their own practices, are aware that even WHOLE HEALTH SYSTEMS are causing this. The follow up comments in the thread reveal other lactation professionals acknowledging infant starvation.

4. But the MOST remarkable thing about the hideous suffering that this baby endured is that Leah Drexler, who just privately acknowledged that this happens all the time went on record only 10 weeks ago PUBLICLY DENYING that infants are starving under the care of lactation professionals.

As I noted on Oct. 13, Drexler was asked by lactivists to comment on a Fed Is Best Facebook post.

Fed Is Best quoted a mother:

My baby cried for over two days in a row in the baby friendly hospital… It was just starvation. It breaks my heart to remember that.

Leah Drexler — the same LC who PRIVATELY acknowledges “we have colleagues guilty of perpetuating this” — PUBLICLY said:

STARVING KIDS DON’T HAVE ENERGY TO CRY STRAIGHT FOR DAYS IN A ROW.
They stop crying by the second day and start sleeping way. Too. Much. That’s when the high bilirubin sets in.

There’s many thing that could make a child cry continuously after birth, but lack of calories to expend is not one of them.

Kids that truly aren’t getting any food by day 2-3, you can barely get them to open their eyes …

Drexler and other lactation professionals PRIVATELY acknowledge that they are harming babies, but PUBLICLY gaslight the mother reporting the harm and the Foundation trying to stop it.

How can they live with themselves?

  • rational thinker

    Some may call me mean but if I knew someone with a new baby who was 9 weeks old and looks like this baby did I would be calling CPS to report it.

    • Anna

      Yeah I don’t believe he was seen by numerous professionals in hospital and they all said he was fine. Bollocks.

      • AnnaPDE

        The LCs (all of them nurse midwives) were just fine seeing my son for 3 weeks in a not much better state, and tried to keep supplementation to a minimum while continuing to push breast. Made sure not to connect the dots on weighing too, and poo-pooed my purchase of a scale for home.
        I can totally believe numerous professionals turning a blind eye to this.

        • Anna

          The story insinuated that the baby had been seen by a “consultant” which in the UK means an attending Dr. Consultant could have meant LC but the claim was ‘numerous medical professionals’ – I would take that to mean GP first and paediatrician as you can’t go straight to a paed.

          • AnnaPDE

            I’m suspecting a combo of fob-off nurses, midwives and health visitors, and possibly a GP or two… And that could have well been at an earlier stage, when baby wasn’t looking so bad yet, or she might have been to a lactivist or “don’t worry, she’ll be right” type. Or, very likely, there was actually some “you need to supplement” advice, but put gently and taken as “maybe feed some expressed milk too” suggestion, instead of the blunt “this baby needs milk, feed them X amount at least, if there’s not enough breast milk use formula, and if baby’s not drinking it come back and report exactly this” that should have come across.

  • Queen Khentkawes

    I’m not a doctor, or a mother, but even I know you’re not supposed to see a baby’s ribs!

  • demodocus

    ugh. the lot of them can go jump in a lake.

  • rational thinker

    “These are the reasons Fed Is Best exist — as much as I hate it, first we have to prevent this from happening systematically” So Leah you hate that FIB exist because they bring attention to things like this. I think Leah is trying to shift blame. Its not me its others in the health care system.

    The BFHI does bear a lot of responsibility but the baby is only in their care for 2 to 5 days not 9 weeks. So whose fault was it for the other 8 weeks. I am going to guess lactivism culture and LC’s that brainwash parents into thinking any amount of formula will ruin their baby for life.

    • Daleth

      So whose fault was it for the other 8 weeks… LC’s that brainwash parents

      Yes. This sentence was the most shocking thing to me about this poor baby’s case: “Seen weekly at jaundice clinic, reluctant to weigh but did after mum pressure, no concerns noted.”

      The clinic was RELUCTANT TO WEIGH this visibly underweight baby and did so only after its mom insisted! And even then there were “no concerns noted.” What the FUCK.

      • rational thinker

        I have said this before but I will mention it again. In the US health insurance companies have to provide mom with a breast pump at the cost of around $4oo. If they would also give mom an infant scale which would cost around $30 for a basic scale that could save them millions each year from jaundice readmissions. If mom could weigh her baby at home after each breastfeed she could see for herself that the baby needs formula and save the baby from being brain damaged,dying, or being hospitalized. Scales dont lie like mommy boards and LC’s do.

      • AnnaPDE

        If you allow a concerned mother to measure a baby before and after a feed, this may produce visible, physical evidence that there wasn’t a lot of milk intake. If you let her plot her baby’s growth curve and it shows that baby isn’t gaining properly, this kills all the careful gaslighting that low supply is just “perceived” and baby is going fine.
        Therefore scales must be restricted and weighing refused. The nurses in my hospital did exactly that too.

      • MaineJen

        I mean…Jesus. That baby’s appearance is VERY alarming. Like a commenter above said, you don’t have to be an expert to see that something is very wrong there.

        You’ve gotta love NCB/BreastIsBest culture: it’s all “Listen to your intuition Momma!!1!” before and during birth, but after birth it’s all “You poor dear, just keep breastfeeding because your low supply is all in your pretty little head!”

    • Daisy lots of Daisies

      No, BFHI goes beyond that as (in the UK anyway which this baby is) they also accredit the community support – so health visitors (who run the baby weighing clinics) and children’s centres (where the clinics often take place) are also subject to BFHI restrictions. All the HVs I saw were toeing the party line – refusing to talk about formula (I had to beg for the bottle feeding booklet from the HV despite having my baby readmitted with hypernatraemic dehydration; I was given four copies of the breastfeeding one at various points without asking for it), and the children’s centres are plastered with breastfeeding promotion but zero pictures of anything formula related .

      • rational thinker

        In the US you only have to put up with BFHI during the hospital stay. Then well meaning parents deal with LC’s who brainwash them so they keep coming back. Its sick but it may be the case at least with some of the LC’s in the US to keep the baby underfed a little so the parents keep coming back for more visits. The LC’s here get somewhere around $100 to $300 per visit. If the baby is not having feeding problems then there is no need to see an LC and they wont get paid for multiple visits.

        I didnt realize this baby was in the UK health care system. It seems like the mom was the only one worried about the babys weight. Im sorry that they did that your baby also, I am so disgusted by these people that let babies starve all for a stupid ideology.

        • mabelcruet

          The UK system is an attempt to tie up hospital based maternity care with ongoing community care after birth, so mothers and babies are discharged very quickly after birth (within hours at times), but reviewed at home by a community midwife initially, then later by health visitors. Parents are given a ‘red book’, it’s full of information for parents about growth and developmental milestones, and contains all the results of postnatal tests like the heel prick test for metabolic disorders, records vaccinations, hearing screening, hip screening etc. So there is a lot of ongoing community support for new parents. However, the breast is best mantra is pushed very strongly. I’ve mentioned a case I had before on here-we had a mum who was pregnant with a baby with lethal abnormalities, she was offered termination on the grounds that this was incompatible with life, but she decided to continue the pregnancy. She was being reviewed at the regional fetal medicine clinic (super specialised obstetricians) but also at her local midwife led centre for routine antenatal monitoring. When he was born, he survived a few minutes, long enough for her to say hello and goodbye. When the baby came to me for an autopsy, I got all the medical notes too, and in the midwife notes there were multiple entries over time saying ‘refusing to attempt breast feeding’, ‘advice given about breast feeding’, ‘given leaflets about breast feeding but refuses to take them’. It was utterly appalling-there was even a note made that mum was a smoker and she had refused referral to smoking cessation counsellors, despite being warned of the effect smoking had on babies. It never seemed to connect with the people reviewing her that a baby missing several vital organs was not going to be breast fed, despite letters from the specialist clinic being filed at the front of her records and multiple correspondence. It was blind, thoughtless protocol they were following, not individualised care.

          • rosewater1

            My God. That actually happened. There is a place in hell for those people.

          • mabelcruet

            I got the impression reading the notes that the staff were on auto-pilot. The maternity antenatal records are done as pre-printed sheets with tick boxes and fill-in-the-blanks,so the midwife works her way down the list, entering results of urinalysis, blood pressure measurements and all that. The forms state ‘has the mother been given breast feeding advice?’ and if she is reluctant about it, there is a general spiel recommended (tell the mum that breast milk is perfect, it protects against infection, cot death, it protects mum against breast cancer and so on). I suspect that when mum said she wasn’t going to breastfeed, the midwife simply launched into her standard spiel without actually thinking why mum wasn’t going to breast feed. I know its my opinion based just on reading the notes, but my sense was that it wasn’t deliberately malignant or malicious, it was thoughtlessness and lack of engagement with the patient.

          • nata

            It does sound awful. Technically you are supposed to look through the notes in the beginning of the visit. To discuss scans/blood results. :/ It is not supposed to be a pre-filled tick box exercise ;/. I worked with community midwives only as a student, since qualifying I have always been in obstetric led unit. However, even as a student you feel puzzled how they manage to review history, provide and discuss care and document in only 20 minutes. Apparently some people just don’t and just follow the script :/.

          • rational thinker

            Aren’t they supposed to read her medical file before or at the start of each visit. If they didn’t mom probably told them during the visit that the baby was not viable outside the womb, and they pushed breastfeeding crap on her anyway. In that situation they had no right to lecture her about smoking being bad for a baby who was going to die anyway. That has to be one of the worst things that could ever happen to a mother, so if smoking relaxes her or calms her nerves then by all means just let her smoke and leave her the fuck alone. It is really messed up that its the health care system in the UK allowing people to be treated like this.

            Lactivists are known for using any situation to promote breastfeeding, and what was done to that woman was sick. It reminds me of hurricane Harvey and when they used it to push breastfeeding and were trying to stop formula donations from going to areas destroyed by the hurricane.

          • mabelcruet

            In the UK, pregnant women get given ‘hand held notes’ that they keep themselves and bring to every appointment. This is because maternity care is delivered in several different ways-some are midwife-led, some are shared care between hospital and midwife, or hospital and GP, and some are shared between GP and midwife, so giving the notes to the woman means the risk of notes not being available for clinic appointments is very much lessened, and everyone caring for the woman is kept fully informed of what has been done or said during attendances.

            In this case, the mum was being seen at a tertiary referral centre and also her local midwives for the basic maternity monitoring. All the letters and scan reports about the baby were tucked into her hand held notes, so there was no reason for the midwives to overlook them-I honestly got the impression that they were in some sort of mindless protocol mentality.

            The notes for each maternity visit are basically pre-printed tick-boxes/fill in the blanks so I reckon they were just working their way through the list without actually thinking what they were saying. The tickbox says ‘has Safe-Stop advice been given about smoking?’ so they give it, and the script for advising a pregnant woman to cut down or stop smoking goes along the lines of ‘baby might be smaller than expected, smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of cot-death.’ For breast feeding, the suggested spiel is ‘babies who are breast fed get the perfect food for them, they are protected against infection, the rate of cot death is lower, it protects mum against breast cancer’ and so on, so they automatically go through the spiel without connecting the dots that nothing they are saying is going to change the outcome of this particular pregnancy. It was very disturbing to read-I wonder if the mum had objected at any point, or if she’d just given up because no one was listening to her.

          • Anna

            Yeah I’m not buying it that health visitors in the UK are pushing formula. Nor am I buying that the paeds consultants told the Mother the baby was fine and didn’t need supplements.

          • mabelcruet

            Of all the neonatalogists and paediatricians I know, none of them comes across as a lactivist, although I do an obstetrician who is very woo-prone.

            I had a conversation with a neonatalogist a while back, with him complaining about a lactation consultant who demanded to be allowed to examine a neonate who was in the special care baby unit. His mum had developed chorioamnionitis so he was being screened for sepsis and and she had also had gestational diabetes and he was hypoglycaemic, sleepy and floppy. They put him on a glucose infusion and he was in an incubator getting intravenous antibiotics as well. The LC told the mum that him getting glucose would prevent him from ever breast feeding, and that because she hadn’t done skin-to-skin, that was why he was having problems with his temperature and that was where the infection was coming from (we think that her ‘logic’ was microbiome-related, with no skin-to-skin, no good bacteria were passed to the baby and so he only got bad ones, something like that possibly). He got her banned from the unit, she really upset the mum.

            My impression is that most paeds are very much ‘feed the baby, everything else is secondary’.

          • nata

            Most of our pediatric doctors would never promote breastfeeding over baby’s wellbeing. The majority of the midwives are quite sensible as well. Interestingly, where I work the breastfeeding leadership has been trying to regulate and control the amount of formula we tend to give away; however, they met quiet resistance from the midwives.

          • Anna

            I agree. The midwives here are about 50/50. Half are sensible, practical, kind and efficient, the others are kicking and screaming against medicalisation. I have not met a Dr that cared more about breastfeeding than health but I think they do exist.

          • Daisy lots of Daisies

            I wonder whether she’d have got as far as paeds though unless there was an emergency admission (which it doesn’t sound like there was?). We’ve had huge cuts to services in my part of the UK (and it’s one of the wealthier counties) so a lot of the baby weighing clinics have been cancelled or access restricted – in my baby’s first year I turned up to three clinics only to find they were cancelled so she didn’t get weighed at one point for several months – I ended up getting a scale to use at home. And the cuts have got a lot worse since then. It would be very easy to fall through the gaps and not be able to get the baby weighed even if you wanted to. Now that HVs aren’t organised by the NHS (they’re on a private contract where I am) there is a disconnect – I’ve got one friend whose GP couldn’t weigh the baby because the scales used by HVs had all been removed when the service switched over to a different location, so the GP couldn’t then get a weight done. Then delay before getting another appt etc etc. And if the constant refrain is that mums always make enough milk, low supply doesn’t exist, frantic feeding round the clock is normal etc etc then you don’t know, as a new mum, to push for more information or to see a different HCP.
            I just remember the amount of times I was fobbed off by midwives saying ‘new mums don’t know what wet nappies are like’ and ‘cluster feeding is normal’ before my baby was readmitted with hypernatraemic dehydration.