Log In
Saturday 22nd October 2016

Investigation into breastfed baby risk

17th February 2009

A study is to be launched in the UK to find out the number of breastfed babies who become critically unwell after not taking in the right amount of milk.


Information will be collected to see how many "seriously dehydrated newborns" are readmitted to hospital in the UK and Ireland.

Babies are in danger of a condition known as severe hypernatraemic dehydration, which can kill.

Babies are at risk of hypernatraemic dehydration if they do not consume enough milk after they are born. This can cause sodium levels to increase, which can cause gangrene, brain damage and, ultimately, death.

Babies can be treated by being rehydrated, but the condition must be picked up early.

Some research has suggested that hospitals could be treating one baby a week for dehydration but there is not enough "comprehensive" information available.

"People are very cagey about saying anything that might give breastfeeding a bad name," says Dr Sam Richmond, a consultant neonatologist at Sunderland Royal Hospital.

"But is does need to be addressed - and properly studied - because the consequences can be so severe."

Cases usually affect women who have given birth for the first time and want to breastfeed exclusively. 

Currently, Department of Health guidelines tell women they should breastfeed their baby for the first six months.

However, fewer than 1% of women breastfeed their baby for the full six months, with many experiencing problems in the first weeks.

The British Paediatric Surveillance Unit will ask doctors to report back every month - for 13 months - about the amount of infants they have treated for severe hypernatraemic dehydration.


Share this page


marion whyman

Wednesday 18th February 2009 @ 22:59

The problem here is not breastfeeding itself, it is babies who are NOT breastfeeding properly because of incorrect latching and positioning. A sad reflection on the state of postnatal midwifery care caused by overworked and pressured staff. If more resources were put into providing good breastfeeding support in the first week after birth, this condition would be seen more rarely in my opinion.

Post your comment

Only registered users can comment. Fill in your e-mail address for quick registration.

Your email address:

Your comment will be checked by a Healthcare Today moderator before it is published on the site.

Mayden - Innovative cloud-based web development for the healthcare sector
© Mayden Foundation 2016