A grieving mother is sharing a message that every new mother and expectant mother needs to hear after she lost her son at just 19 days old to dehydration followed by cardiac arrest.
Jillian Johnson’s son Landon died after she failed to produce enough colustrum when he was newly born, and he died just 12 hours after being released from the hospital.
Now Johnson is speaking out about how she felt ‘brainwashed’ to exclusively breastfeed and that mothers need to know there’s nothing wrong with a bottle.
Johnson sat down with PEOPLE Now to discuss her story that has recently gone viral, telling the host that she and her husband had chosen to have Landon at a hospital that strongly encouraged exclusive breastfeeding.
“We had chosen to have Landon in a baby-friendly hospital — that means that everything is geared towards breastfeeding,” she told the magazine. “All the classes that we took, whether it was breastfeeding classes, we had birth classes, we had Lamaze classes, all of them still pushed breastfeeding.”
When asked if she felt any sort of pressure to breastfeed while in the hospital, Johnson said it went beyond pressure.
“I can’t even say that pressure is the right word,” she says. “Everything was pushed so hard, you felt brainwashed. You felt like you were a horrible person if you gave your baby a bottle, and you wanted to do everything you could to make sure that your baby was breastfed and not given a bottle.”
Johnson, who now has two other children she fed through a combination of breast and formula feeding, says there’s no words to describe how she and her husband feel about the loss of Landon.
“It’s really not something I could put into words for somebody else to understand if they haven’t lost a child, but there’s a hole,” she says. “There’s a hole in our hearts. He can’t be replaced. He would have been 5, he would have been starting kindergarten this year. The holidays are really hard because, what would he dress up as for Halloween this year? What would we have gotten him for Christmas?”
“There’s nothing wrong with giving your child a bottle,” Johnson said when speaking about what she hopes new parents will take away from her story. “In the end, what would you rather have – a child that passed away because you did your best to breastfeed him? Or would you like to raise your child, because you had no fear and gave the child a bottle?” she asks.
“There is nothing wrong with supplementing. It comes down to making sure that your baby is getting everything that they need, even if it’s the first few days of life. I know women who have had to give them a bottle for the first few days and they didn’t have to give them a bottle after that.”
“There is nothing wrong with giving a baby a bottle,” she impressed.
Johnson says she’s been accused of being anti-breastfeeding since she came forth with her story, a theory she refutes, claiming if she was anti-breastfeeding her son would still be alive.
She simply wants parents, both mothers and fathers, to educate themselves and learn to recognize if there are issues. She also said that by speaking out she’s heard from many other parents who, while they may not have lost their child, have felt the same sense of frustration.
“As a community, we need to start taking care of each other,” she says. “The amount of moms that have said, ‘I needed to hear this so that I could speak up,’ it’s amazing, because we shouldn’t be shamed for how we choose to feed our children as long as they’re fed.”
Johnson, who wrote about her loss of Landon on the blog Fed is Best, tells PEOPLE Now that she now has two daughters who know all about their big brother, and they hope they can continue to prevent another death like Landon’s by speaking out.
“Now we just want to do bigger things in his name and help other parents prevent losing their babies.”
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