Jillian Johnston set aside her grief on what would've been her son's fifth birthday.
She shared the tragic story of her son, who died at just 15 days with Fed is Best, in the hope that no other parents would have to go through what she and her husband did.
"I wanted to share for a long time about what happened to Landon," she said. "But I always feared what others would say and how I’d be judged. But I want people to know how much deeper the pain gets."
They were first-time parents, and prepared in every way possible for the new arrival. They took the classes, read the books, and booked into a breast-feeding friendly hospital.
Landon was delivered by emergency C-section, weighing a healthy seven pounds, seven ounces.
From the beginning, Jillian noticed that Landon was feeding excessively:
"Landon was on my breast – ALL OF THE TIME."
But specialists and doctors noted that this was nothing out of the ordinary:
"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. The reason she gave was because I was diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) and it was just harder for women with hormone imbalances to produce milk."
But, as they found out too late, Jillian was not producing any milk at all.
The baby would cry unless attached to her breast, she was told that Landon was "cluster feeding":
"I recalled learning all about that in the classes I had taken, and being a first time mom, 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."
The family were sent home, but still Landon continued to cry:
"Did you know newborns aren't supposed to cry all the time? They’re supposed to eat and sleep and dirty their diapers.
I had no idea that he was inconsolable because he was starving – literally."
After just 12 hours at home, Landon was discovered unresponsive and not breathing. He had gone into cardiac arrest caused by dehydration. He passed away from starvation related brain injuries just days later:
"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."
The couple have since gone on to have another girl:
"I remember when Stella was born, and she was always quiet. I kept asking the nurses what was wrong with her. They said nothing. She’s doing what she’s supposed to. Sleeping. Eating. And it was then that I realised that it wasn't normal for a newborn to cry as much as Landon did. He was just crying out from his hunger."
Jillian says that she still suffers with guilt and grief over the loss of their precious boy: "I still have many, many days of guilt and questions – what if I would’ve just given him a bottle? And anger because how would I have known.
But I didn't know. I should’ve known...I still struggle daily feeling as though I failed him."
She said that Landon had change her life forever:
"I’ve been humbled. Challenged... I’ve learned forgiveness. And the true meaning of “life is short.” I love hard – to a fault.
But I couldn't live with myself knowing his death was in vain. I’ve learned so many lessons. I’ve learned the true meaning of compassion and unconditional love."