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Just days after the birth of their first baby, Jared and Jillian were devastated by tragedy -- a tragedy that Jillian says was completely preventable.
The couple spent the months of pregnancy preparing for baby Landon’s arrival. Jillian took breastfeeding classes because she had been told that “Formula is bad for the baby, and breastmilk is the best thing for them,” she says.
“I’ll never forget when they handed him to me!” Jillian continues. “I just couldn’t take my eyes off him.” Jillian nursed Landon throughout their hospital stay, and was told she was doing “a great job.” Once home, Landon was constantly at the breast, until Jillian began to suspect that something was wrong. Then when she went to pick up the baby, she found him completely limp and not breathing.
Baby Landon was on life support for 15 days. Doctors suspected he was dehydrated. “I was like, dehydrated? Wait a second, but that means … oh my God, you’re telling me I starved my child!?” Jillian and Jared learned that Landon hadn’t been getting any milk when he was at her breast.
“He was 19 days old when he passed away,” Jillian says. “Life isn’t the same after losing a child. There’s a huge hole in my heart, all because we trusted everything that we were taught, that exclusively breastfeeding is the best thing for a baby. His death was 100 percent preventable.”
Now Jillian and Dr. Christie del Castillo-Hegyi, founder of the organization Fed Is Best, join The Doctors. “Jillian, I know this was recently the fifth anniversary of Landon’s death. We’re so sorry for your loss,” says ER Physician Dr. Travis Stork. “You’re really now trying to take his death and turn it into something positive.”
“We want to educate as many parents as possible that you have to be your child’s number-one advocate,” Jillian says. Ob/Gyn Dr. Nita Landry explains that babies may not get enough to eat for two reasons – the mother isn’t producing enough milk, or the baby isn’t latching and nursing well. “In Jillian’s case, she wasn’t making enough milk.”
Dr. del Castillo-Hegyi founded Fed Is Best because her own story is similar to Jillian’s. Because she was a medical professional – an ER physician – she recognized that her infant was hypoglycemic and was able to force-feed him a bottle in time to save his life. “I started the foundation because I wanted to reach out to mothers and tell them what are the realities of breastfeeding. Sometimes there’s not enough milk.”
Dr. del Castillo-Hegyi lists the warning signs that a baby may not be getting enough milk, especially nonstop crying and continual nursing. She stresses that mothers need to know when to supplement with formula, rather than waiting for an office visit. “There’s no one else that’s going to protect your child as well as you can.”