Pregnancy & Birth

One mum’s heartbreaking warning after her baby accidentally starved to death

“If I’d given him just one bottle, he would still be alive.”

By Ellie McDonald
Five years ago, Jillian Johnson’s newborn baby boy Landon, pictured above, passed away, but it wasn’t until this week that she revealed the tragic circumstances surrounding her sweet little boy’s death.
And she has done so to warn other parents to protect their children from a fate like her son’s.
Despite doing everything in their power to prepare for the arrival of their little bundle of joy, Ms Johnson and her husband said they read all the books, went to all of the classes, and even scheduled Landon’s birth in a “baby-friendly” hospital.
After he was delivered via an emergency C-section, Ms Johnson says Landon was exclusively breastfed.
“Landon was on my breast – ALL OF THE TIME,” Ms Johnson wrote on Fedisbest.com.
“The lactation consultants would come in and see that 'he had a great latch and was doing fine' but there was one who mentioned I may have a problem producing milk.”
Ms Johnson says the reason one of the hospital staff said this to her was because she was diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) and it's said to be harder for women with hormone imbalances to produce milk. The hospital staff then recommended some herbs for Ms Johnson to take to help with this when she got out of the hospital.
However, this did not help to relieve Landon's crying.
“Landon cried. And cried. All the time,” Ms Johnson remembers. “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.”
Even though Landon would cry, he continued to consistently breastfeed, with hospital staff telling Ms Johnson that her son was “cluster feeding”.
“I recalled learning all about that in the classes I had taken,” she continued.
“And being a first time mum, 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.”
“But I was wrong. I’ve learned I have to be my child’s number-one advocate.”
As Dr Christie Del Castillo-Hegyi, who helped Ms Johnson’s story by providing medical input is to what had happened to Landon, said that by the time Landon had been in the world for 27 hours, his nursing sessions became longer and longer until he was on Ms Johnson’s breast continuously for the second day of his life.
By 53 hours, he had lost 9.72 per cent of his original birth weight.
“Constant, unsatisfied nursing and inconsolable crying are two of the signs of newborn starvation that lead to brain-threatening complications,” Dr Del Castillo-Hegyi explains.
"If a child is receiving a fraction of their caloric requirement through early exclusive breastfeeding, they can experience severe hunger and thirst, which is why they will cry inconsolably and breastfeed continuously when it is the only source of calories and fluid they are offered.”
“I had no idea that he was inconsolable because he was starving – literally,” adds Ms Johnson.
“And when a baby is only on the breast, how do we gauge how much they’re actually getting out?”
“Sure, there should be wet and soiled diapers, and weight checks, right? And where is the limit as to weight loss and a minimum for the diapers changed?”
Despite all of this, Landon was discharged from hospital 64 hours after his birth, exclusively breastfeeding from his mother whose milk hadn’t come in yet.
“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,” Ms Johnson laments.
“And the best advice I was given by one of his NICU doctors while he was on life support is sure breast is best, but follow with the bottle. This way you know your baby has eaten enough…”
Landon had continued to only breastfeed at home, as what Ms Johnson thought was the right thing to do, but he was found unresponsive, pulseless and blue half a day after being sent home from hospital.
He was rushed to hospital, where he later died from hypernatremic dehydration and cardiac arrest from hypovolemic shock.
“If only I could go back in time…” Ms Johnson wrote, still shocked and devastated by the loss of her first-born child.
Following the brave telling of her story (Ms Johnson had been afraid to talk about what happened to Landon for years out of fear she would be judged), many mothers have shown their support for this still-grieving mum.
“This was so close to being us. I'm so, so, so sorry,” one user wrote. “This could literally happy to anyone and people should be made aware of these risks. Thank you for sharing this story.”
Another agreed, saying: “It's wonderful that through your pain, you are helping others so no mother has to go through the heartbreak you had to suffer.”
Despite this, Ms Johnson still feels guilt and heartbreak over what happened to Landon.
“I still have many, many days of guilt and questions – what if I would’ve just given him a bottle?” she says.
“And anger because how would I have known?”
Our thoughts are with Ms Johnson and her family.