3-Year-Old With Rare Disease Survives PICU, Thanks to Donated Breast Milk

Benny Landsman recovers in the PICU during his stomach bug scare several months ago.
Benny Landsman recovers in the PICU during his stomach bug scare several months ago.Credit: Jennie Landsman

Little Benny has Canavan's disease, which means his body can't make a crucial enzyme that is found in breast milk.

A young boy with a rare disease might not have survived a New York pediatric intensive care unit if it weren’t for the kindness of other moms donating their breast milk.

Three-year-old Benny Landsman, of Brooklyn, survives primarily on breast milk. He and his 2-year-old brother, Josh, have Canavan’s disease, a fatal neurological disorder characterized by a missing enzyme.

While their bodies can’t create the enzyme that is crucial for their brain function, the enzyme is found in breast milk.

“Although it’s not a cure for his condition, it’s very beneficial,” mom Jennie Landsman told InsideEdition.com.

Six months ago, Benny landed in the PICU, suffering an especially bad stomach virus.

Landsman said her son already had low muscle tone, but the illness left him too weak to breastfeed.

“At this point Benny was barely able to open his eyes for more than a few minutes at a time, and wasn’t responsive,” his mom said.

Doctors put him on IV fluids and inserted a nasogastric intubation tube, but Benny wasn’t able to keep down formula.

“I had been trying to keep up with pumping, but my supply was dwindling as I spent night after night stressed out and in the hospital with him,” Landsman said. “I was also pregnant, and it was affecting my supply.”

Desperate to save her son, she took to Facebook with pleas for help, and asked any mothers in her network with extra milk to donate it to her son.

Within minutes, calls started pouring in, and by the next morning, Landsman had more than 200 ounces of donated breast milk.

“We used the milk in Benny’s [nasogastric] tube, and after 24 hours, his vitals finally started to get better,” she said. Shortly after, Benny became conscious again and started getting stronger.

Landsman said all three of her kids, including a 3-month-old who was born shortly after the ordeal, continue to receive breast milk.

Three-year-old Benny continues to use a feeding tube, 2-year-old Josh drinks from a bottle and baby Evan breastfeeds.

“One of the two donor moms is still donating her milk to us,” Landsman said. “I keep in touch with the other mom as well. She also has special needs children and we’ve really connected.”