This baby died because of lactivist “fake news”

Rolled newspaper with fake news headline for bad media journalism

The Fed Is Best Foundation recently published the tragic story of a baby who died because of the lactivist lie that insufficient breastmilk is rare. Bereaved mother Jillian Johnson generously shared the story of her son Landon in order to prevent anyone suffering the heartbreak that she has suffered.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]The claim that insufficient breastmilk is rare is fake news.[/pullquote]

In his second day of life, while still in the hospital, Landon became frantically hungry:

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…

How could the many people who cared for Landon let him suffer and ultimately die? It’s because they believed the lactivist lie that insufficient breastmilk production is rare … when in fact it is quite common. The claim that it is rare is “fake news.”

In the wake of the recent election, we have come face to face with the concept of fake news. Fake news is complete falsehoods passed off as facts by hyperpartisans in order encourage solidarity.

Many purveyors of fake news don’t even realize that it’s fake. They belong to an alternate world of internal legitimacy that has it’s own news outlets, conferences and experts. They believe that they are sole possessors of the “truth,” that forcing their “truth” on everyone is beneficial and that those who oppose them are persecuting them. Indeed, a sense of persecution is endemic to purveyors of fake news.

Tragically, many lactivists and professional lactivist organizations are purveyors of fake news. Many lactivists don’t even realize that it’s fake. They belong to an alternative world of internal legitimacy where they communicate only with each other. They believe that they are sole possessors of the “truth,” that forcing their “truth” on everyone is beneficial and that those who oppose them are persecuting them. Indeed, a sense of persecution is endemic to contemporary lactivism.

The lactivist lie that insufficient breastmilk is rare is no different than the Trump lie that his inaugural had the largest audience ever. It’s not based on fact; it’s based on ideology and wishful thinking.

For reasons that I cannot fathom, lactivists desperately insists that breastfeeding — unlike any other bodily function — is always perfect. Regardless of the age, size and temperament of the baby, lactivists claim that his mothers breasts ALWAYS make enough milk to fully nourish him and that ANY supplementation of breastmilk with formula destroys the breastfeeding relationship. Why? Because women were “designed” to breastfeed.

It’s the equivalent of insisting that there is no such thing as infertility because women were “designed” to get pregnant.

As it happens, about 20% of couples may experience difficulty getting pregnant. But imagine if we lied to women and told them that infertility was rare and any effort to treat it would destroy their ability to get pregnant. It’s not hard to fathom the anguish that lie would cause: millions of infertile women would suffer believeing they were alone, would blame themselves and would not seek treatment in fear of destroying their fertility altogether.

The incidence of insufficient breastmilk, though not as high as the incidence of infertility, is high nonetheless. As many as 15% of women will have difficulty producing enough breastmilk to fully nourish a child. No less an authority than Alison Stuebe, MD of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine has acknowledged that as many as 1 in 7 first time mothers suffers delayed onset of breastmilk production leaving their newborns in need of supplementation with formula in order to survive the first few days without suffering severe hunger, possible dehydration and even death.

When I posted Landon’s story on my Facebook feed, some lactivists responded by insisting that his story was untrue. One commentor wrote:

I need more information. The story reads sensationalized. Red Flag.

Another demonstrating the lactivist penchant to view themselves as persecuted:

You’ve crossed the line into bullying and shaming breastfeeders. I’m out.

A nurse, wrote:

I’ve just re-read that post to make sure I have fully understood it. It is chock full of cherry picked and unsupported claims. However, this is what we are meant to take away from it. A baby is deemed well enough to go home, but within 24 hours he has lost enough fluid to send him into cardiac arrest. This simply does not add up. It simply is not true that a well functioning baby will “starve” in this fashion. There are millions of early struggles with feeding and early thriving that will involve the baby not getting enough down in the first week. For it to arrest I would be asking about a hundred other variables here.

But as an anesthesiologist responded:

A newborn’s blood volume is about 85 cc/kg, so this baby at about 3.5 kg (round numbers) had a blood volume of 300 cc. If he lost 10% of his total body weight from dehydration, I would think that would be more than enough to cause hypovolemic arrest. The neonatal heart and sympathetic nervous system can do an awful lot of compensation to keep vital organs perfused…until it fails…

Why don’t lactivists, lactation consultants and nurses know this? Because they have been bombarded with fake news about breastfeeding, the lie that insufficient breastmilk is rare when it is actually common, the lie that the newborn stomach is 80% smaller than it really is, the lie that supplementing destroys the breastfeeding relationship, among other lies.

I don’t understand why lactivist organizations feel the need to resort to fake news. Breastfeeding is an excellent form of infant nutrition for those babies whose mothers wish to breastfeed and can do so. But it is not perfect, formula is not harmful for term babies and supplementing does NOT destroy the breastfeeding relationship.

The anguish of Landon’s mother is palpable:

If I had given him just one bottle, he would still be alive.

Sadly, she’s right.

And as long as we continue to allow lactivist organizations to promote fake news about breastfeeding there will be more Landons, babies who die because lactivists lie.