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Baby In The UK Poisoned By Mother’s Milk

Baby In The UK Poisoned By Mother's MilkI’m sure many of you are as stunned as I was to read this sad story. According to reports, after a normal pregnancy, Natasha Clarke gave birth to a healthy baby girl weighing 7 pounds 2 ounces. When the baby was three days old her feeding became erratic. After being told by a midwife that this was normal they decide against going to the doctor.

The next day Natasha’s concerns would not go away and she spoke to the midwife again. “I told her Ava really hadn’t fed very well. She would startle to loud sounds but she was not waking up. Her body felt a little bit rigid,” she said. “‘I could see the midwife was slightly concerned and when she took Ava’s temperature, it was only 35C (95F), worryingly low. I realized then it was serious.”

Sadly hours after being taken to the hospital the baby’s condition deteriorated so rapidly that she had to be placed on life support. Eventually the doctors said they would have to turn off the machines. “We asked them how long Ava would live without the machines, they said about an hour. But Ava stayed with us for another 12 hours until 6am the next day. She was only five days old,” the grieving mom said.

The baby suffered from a genetic condition called methylmalonic acidemia (MMA). This means that the body does not produce an enzyme required to break down protein. That is why her mother’s milk was toxic to her. Her body could not break down the protein and this usually leads to the build up of methylmalonic acid and ammonia in the body. This can cause severe brain damage, and in may cases lead to coma and death.

In another sad twist to this story, a drug that could possibly have saved the baby’s life could not be located. In fact the baby didn’t get the needed drugs until many hours later when specialists from a children’s hospital turned up.

Newborns are routinely tested for MMA in the US, but not in the UK. One can only hope that this story will lead to a change in this policy. In the meantime, Ava’s parents are trying to do their part to ensure that other parents will not have to go through this nightmare. They started the Ava Clarke Foundation to raise funds for children in similar situations. They are also trying to buy a machine which will make it easier for the hospital to test for these problems.

According to figures provided by the article, 1 out of every 800 babies is born with these types of conditions. They are said to be responsible for 40% of neonatal deaths. While we sympathize with the Clarkes for their loss, we must also applaud there efforts to make sure that other children will have a fighting chance.

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