A New Hampshire mother has lost custody of her infant daughter after bringing her to the emergency room last June. The state says Baby Autumn is the victim of child abuse. Her mother says that tests have revealed that the baby girl has Rickets, caused by a severe vitamin D deficiency.
The baby’s mother, Heather Dragotta, says:
I brought my new born daughter to the hospital, after she woke up screaming in pain when i moved her arm. Upon multiple x-rays we found out that she had a fracture in her right arm that had a transverse configuration, without any evidence of external injury (we later learned that a transverse configuration is a typical fracture morphology in a pathologically fragile bone). Not understanding how this could have happened to my daughter, my boyfriend and I had no explanation for the injury.
Child Protection immediately became involved, and further tests revealed multiple fractures on baby Autumn. Despite the serious injuries, doctors could not find any external signs of injury or abuse — no bruises, abrasions, external swelling, rashes, “not a mark on her.”
They assessed her vitamin D levels which were low-normal, but not mine; they did not question me about my nutrition during pregnancy or my delivery. They did not take into consideration that I called her pediatrician on two separate occasions with medical concerns; one being that she had severe clicking in her shoulders which we later learned is due to joint laxity, a symptom of Rickets or that she had broken blood vessels in her right eye.
Baby Autumn was removed from her mother’s care and placed in Child Protection, who have retained guardianship ever since.
Dragotta says that doctors consulted by the state-appointed lawyer for Baby Autumn have since diagnosed the baby as having a metabolic bone disease which he diagnosed as “Infantile Rickets in the state of healing,” and that her bones were in “a fragile state.” Doctors diagnosed Dragotta with Osteomalacia, essentially the adult form of Rickets, and also possibly Elhers Danlos syndrome (a genetic deficiency that cross ties to the infant’s metabolic bone disease).
In the meantime, Child Protection contacted the baby’s father, who had not had contact with mother or child since Dragotta was two months pregnant, and awarded him custody of the baby. Dragotta continues to work to get her baby daughter back.
Dragotta has created a Facebook page, Rickets an Epidemic, to tell her story and warn other parents about vitamin D deficiencies.
Dragotta claims that she was breastfeeding her daughter and was already low in vitamin D herself during pregnancy, which led to the deficiency in Baby Autumn.
What does this mean for breastfeeding mothers, especially in northern states like Minnesota?
The La Leche League released a statement in 2008, saying in part:
For many years, La Leche League International has offered the research-based recommendation that exclusively breastfed babies received all the vitamin D necessary through mother’s milk. Health care professionals now have a better understanding of the function of vitamin D and the amounts required, and the newest research shows this is only true when mothers themselves have enough vitamin D. Statistics indicate that a large percentage of women do not have adequate amounts of vitamin D in their bodies.
La Leche League International acknowledges that breastfeeding mothers who have adequate amounts of vitamin D in their bodies can successfully provide enough vitamin D to their children through breastmilk. It is recommended that pregnant and nursing mothers obtain adequate vitamin D or supplement as necessary. Health care providers may recommend that women who are unsure of their vitamin D status undergo a simple blood test before choosing not to supplement.
Join Rickets an Epidemic to read more about Dragotta’s story and get more information about Rickets and vitamin D.
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