Is There Really a Link Between Autism and Low Breastmilk Supply?

6 min read
Is There Really a Link Between Autism and Low Breastmilk Supply?

A recently circulated letter has many mothers fearing they have put their children’s health at risk.

It even scared me for a moment, until I went back to what I know is sound medical advice and my own experience regarding newborn breastfeeding. So before you read the letter and freak out, take a deep breath, everything is ok.

What The Hell Is Going On?

Remember those first few days of settling into breastfeeding that didn’t always go as planned, the feeding wasn’t always easy and you wondered if your baby was getting enough milk? I recall getting advice and help and then we moved on until the next hurdle.


An open letter written by Christie del Castillo-Hegyi MD, in which she explains the events of the days following the birth of her first child, has many a mother and health professional highly concerned for her underlying message, that the lack of breastmilk delivered to her baby in his first few days has resulted in his diagnosis (he is now six years old) of autism, severe language impairment, ADHD, sensory processing disorder, low IQ, fine and gross motor delays and a seizure disorder.

Is There Really a Link Between Autism and Low Breastmilk Supply?

The letter details her baby’s weight loss, low blood sugar levels, his jaundice, their discharge from hospital after 48 hours and then her baby’s rapid decline. Christie did everything ‘right’, a proper latch was formed onto the breast, she followed the lactation consultants advice to feed her jaundiced baby regularly as he would be hungry, even nursing him long into the night. But he continued to cry and latch back on immediately, unable otherwise to be consoled and he did not sleep”¦at all. The next morning he had stopped crying and was quiet. They took him back to their pediatrician that afternoon and he had lost 15% of his birth weight, to which they were told they had the option of formula feeding or wait until day 4 or 5 when Christie’s milk would come in. They went another day trying to breastfeed. The day after that, finding she was unable to manually express anything, they gave formula. Their baby finally slept but 3 hours later they found him unresponsive and then rushed to a hospital. His blood glucose was very low, he was severely dehydrated and had severe jaundice. The medical staff ensured Christie he would be fine once treated.

These are the events that Christie believes have caused her son’s developmental problems and is pushing the ‘Fed Is Best’ campaign.

What’s The Danger?

Anyone recall the ‘research’ done to prove vaccines cause autism and the fall-out from that?

This information is not extensive, controlled, research-based collated data that has been passed and agreed on by a whole lot of scientific types. As Meg Nagle ( points out “There is absolutely no evidenced-based research to show that insufficient milk intake following birth leads to autism. Is it important that babies receive enough breastmilk following the birth? YES. Is there evidence to show that babies who lose more than 7-10% (of birth weight) after birth are more likely to develop autism? NO.”

It is a very dangerous suggestion indeed.

Christie’s research of her own and the many ‘conversations’ she has had with other mothers on social media has resulted in her drafted open letter leaving many of us bewildered and wondering if we’ve ruined our children’s mental health by breastfeeding the way nature intended, which is colostrum delivery frequently, for the first 3-4 days, until our milky milk arrives. Rest assured we have not.

Is There Really a Link Between Autism and Low Breastmilk Supply? | Stay At Home Mum
Via pixabay

We respect that Christie is trying to advocate measures to protect the brain development of newborn babies, and that is admirable, but scaring mums into feeling that not  supplementing with expressed milk or formula will result in serious development issues, is not.

When we say fed is best, we mean it too, the new campaign, however, insists that mummy’s milk may not be enough and that you should be prepared to give formula the minute things get hairy. The early days of breastfeeding can be difficult enough without prolonging your milk coming in by unnecessary supplemental feeding.

No mother should have the fear of the words ‘insufficient exclusive breastfeeding’ on their mind”¦yet another way to slow down milk production!

Why Support Is So Important

A mother knows her baby best (even when it’s all new the first time around) and when she says she thinks something isn’t right, we all need to listen.

Christie’s concerns fell on deaf ears. Plain as that and no apologies will be given from me for saying so. She instinctively knew something was wrong and was sent home with ‘just wait until your milk comes in’ response. Her health care professionals ignored her pleas and the warning signs that, even though the baby was peeing and pooping on cue, he was unsettled during feeding, having very long feeds and was not sleeping, and those things are not normal.

Is There Really a Link Between Autism and Low Breastmilk Supply? | Stay At Home Mum

The pressure to breastfeed a new baby exclusively is huge, the pressure to do so successfully is even greater and the pressure to know if you’re supplying enough milk to your baby, especially a newborn, is naturally worrying. And it’s not just outsiders who place these pressures, we knowingly do it ourselves. Why? Because a) we want to breastfeed exclusively and successfully and b) we want to be sure our babies are adequately fed. Fair enough, but we shouldn’t let fear of another’s unfortunate experience ruin our own.

Who Do You Ask?

So what do you do when you’re not sure? Ask for help. And what do you do if you don’t receive help or advice which will remedy the situation quickly? Ask elsewhere for help. Don’t accept that one response is the ‘right’ one, especially if your instincts are telling you otherwise, find someone who will listen to you and take action!

Freecall 24 hrs a day:

Australian Breastfeeding Association Breastfeeding Helpline 1800 686 268

Pregnancy, Birth and Baby 1800 882 436


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About Author

Shelley Gilbert

A mum of two, full-on but super cute little boys, Shelley is completely addicted to gentle attachment parenting, loves baby-wearing, fills the role o...Read Moref jersey cow for her youngest child, inhales books about child brain development, is happily married to her partner of 13 years and gets amongst it with the 4 yr olds on kindy parent days. Having worked in all areas of pharmacy her favourite part is - you guessed it- helping people. She is a Cert III Dispense Technician, has a Diploma of Business Management and has clocked up a whole lot of life experience that is giving her a great edge for writing for Stay At Home Mum. Read Less

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