The unfortunate death of Jillian Johnson's son, Landon, due to severe dehydration, though extremely rare, has put a spotlight on the pressure put on new moms to exclusively breastfeed and the way institutions and hospitals promote their exclusive breastfeeding program.
The benefits of breast milk and breastfeeding remain undisputed to be the best for babies, as several studies have proven time and again. The Philippine Milk Code (Executive Order no. 51) prevents hospital and institutions to promote any other means of feeding newborns. But, at the end of the day, nursing is a mother's choice.
In response to the news coverage of Landon's death, UNICEF UK's Baby-friendly Initiative released a statement, acknowledging the need for reliable expert support for moms and babies during the first critical hours and days of a newborn's life. The statement also said that hypernatremic dehydration, which is believed to be the cause of Landon's death, could be prevented without the need for formula milk. (The agency declined to comment on Landon's case because it did not know the full circumstances).
"Our work in the U.K. with health services over the past 20 years, as well as extensive evidence on the issue, demonstrates that hypernatremic dehydration in the absence of underlying illness is highly preventable, without the need for routine supplementation of all babies, which has been shown to undermine breastfeeding success," its statement read.
UNICEF U.K. provided key points that breastfeeding moms need to keep in mind.
It is vital for moms to recognize if their baby is not getting enough breast milk before going home from the hospital.
Check this information sheet and checklist that UNICEF UK's Baby-friendly Initiative provided for new moms, midwives, and doulas. It includes signs to look for in your newborn, his suckling patterns, and his soiled nappies when he's a day old up to almost a month. In the hospital, moms should ask for qualified and reliable lactation consultants and nurses, who can help them learn how to latch and position their baby for successful breastfeeding.
Your doctor should be able to identify early on if your baby is at risk for hypoglycemia.
Infants who are preemies, born small for gestational age, compromised at birth or have a neonatal infection or metabolic disorder are more likely to develop hypoglycemia and have low blood sugar. They need careful attention and a feeding plan.
According to UNICEF UK's Baby-friend Initiative, "With early detection, most breastfeeding problems can be quickly resolved; however, in a few cases the problems will be more complex, and supplementation may be required. In these cases, the Baby Friendly Initiative recognizes the need for supplementation while continuing to provide support to maintain lactation."
As always and it is important to keep in mind, consult your doctor and don't hesitate to ask a medical or lactation expert for help. Moms, you also need to be able to know when to take a pause, recuperate, and recharge. It's how you can fulfill your new challenging and demanding role, whether that involves exclusive breastfeeding or not.