Just over five years ago, Jillian and Jarrod Johnson welcomed a baby boy named Landon into the world.
He was their first child, so they made sure to prepare themselves by taking classes and reading books about giving birth and caring for a newborn. They even checked into a "baby-friendly" hospital, which discourages giving infants any formula unless the mother has a medical condition that prevents her from breastfeeding and the pediatrician writes a prescription for it.
But despite all their careful planning and concern about giving Landon the best care possible, their son died less than a month after he was born. Jillian recently decided to bravely share Landon's story in the hopes that other babies will be saved.
Believing that this was the healthiest option for her baby, Jillian exclusively breastfed Landon after his birth. She grew more and more worried, however, when he started crying whenever he wasn't feeding.
One of her lactation consultants suggested she might have a problem producing milk because she had polycystic ovary syndrome, but didn't tell her to try feeding him formula.
Though Jillian started nursing Landon continuously after being told that he was just cluster feeding, he kept crying and lost almost 10 percent of his birth weight after a couple of days. Despite his weight loss, they were sent home three days after his birth and still weren't advised to formula-feed him.
"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," Jillian said. "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."
When Landon's parents found him unresponsive, they took him back to the hospital, where he was put on life support. Doctors discovered that he had a severe brain injury from oxygen deprivation due to low blood pressure from the dehydration and cardiac arrest. He was taken off of life support just over two weeks later.
"I had no idea that he was inconsolable because he was starving – literally," Jillian said. After her second child, Stella, was born, nurses told her nothing was wrong when she stayed quiet. "It was then that I realized that it wasn’t normal for a newborn to cry as much as Landon did. He was just crying out from his hunger. But I didn’t know. I should’ve known. I still struggle daily feeling as though I failed him."
"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….if only I could go back in time."
If you're worried that your baby isn't eating enough, make sure that
they're averaging at least eight to 12 feedings a day, that you can hear them
swallowing while feeding, that they're gaining four to seven ounces per
week after the fourth day of life, and that they appear healthy, alert,
and active. Check out more signs to watch for here.
Our thoughts are with this family as they continue mourning their baby boy, who would've been five years old this week. Share their story to show them your support.
You can also find more information about protecting your baby from complications arising from exclusively breastfeeding here.