Breastmilk Jaundice

jaundice baby, baby under blue lights

What is Breastmilk Jaundice?

It is the late onset of jaundice. This type of Jaundice gets worse between days 6 and 14 after birth in breastfed babies. This is normal and common and may last up to week 12 after birth.

Why does this occur in Breastfed Babies?

  • There is a substance in breast milk that promotes the reabsorption of bilirubin into the gut. It is important to remember that Jaundice is normal and in fact, it has recently been discovered that normal jaundice can be beneficial to babies. Normal levels of Bilirubin have been found to be a powerful antioxidant.
  • A baby with Jaundice is usually sleepier; this can result in the baby breastfeeding less than normal and can, therefore, also amplify the symptoms and effects of Jaundice.
  • Some mothers may also follow strict feeding schedules while breastfeeding and this can also increase bilirubin levels. Mothers should breastfeed as much as possible.
  • Another reason why breastmilk jaundice is so apparent is that most caregivers suggest that the mothers stop breastfeeding to bring down bilirubin levels. In actual fact, in most cases of breastmilk jaundice, levels of bilirubin are not dangerously high.

Should Mom Stop Breastfeeding?

If breast milk has been identified as the cause of Jaundice, phototherapy treatment should be used while the mother continues to breastfeed.

Temporarily stopping breastfeeding does not help and may actually disrupt the breastfeeding relationship. Giving the baby anything other than breast milk can change the baby’s gut PH level as well as make the risk of developing allergies much higher.

A mother should try to breastfeed her baby as often as possible and should make sure that her baby is receiving enough milk by checking for sufficient dirty/wet diapers and adequate weight gain.

Tracy Behr, CBC, CLD (CBI)
Reference: Breastfeeding counselor course through childbirth International on the physiology of breastfeeding/breastfeeding problems/Health problems/bm jaundice.

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