Breast Milk Jaundice – Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
Up to 70% of newborn babies present with some form of jaundice in the first few weeks of their lives. It is characterized by a yellow tinge in the skin and the whites of the eyes and is caused by elevated levels of bilirubin in the baby’s system. Your baby’s liver should process the bilirubin but it may not yet be effective enough. It is much more common in breastfed babies than bottle fed. But that’s not a reason to choose the bottle over the breast. It just takes your milk, and your baby’s system, a little while to adjust to the right level of nutrients. There are three common types of newborn jaundice; physiologic, breastfeeding, and breast milk jaundice.
What is Breast Milk Jaundice?
The most common form of jaundice is physiologic jaundice and the majority of breastfed babies have a touch of it as they adjust to being out in the real world. Breast milk jaundice is jaundice which continues past this stage. Breast milk jaundice is not at all common – it is believed that less than 5% of babies develop it and that it tends to run in families. It does not mean that your milk is somehow insufficient. Generally, breast milk jaundice is resolved within three to twelve weeks and does not lead to further complications.
Treatment of Breast Milk Jaundice
The treatment for breast milk jaundice is usually just careful observation. Your postpartum professionals will be watching Baby carefully for that telltale yellow tinge. If jaundice is present, they will monitor bilirubin levels and liver function carefully to ensure that the jaundice is not putting your baby at risk of ongoing health problems. You may also:
- Engage a lactation expert to ensure that Baby is latching on correctly and getting all the milk he or she needs. The consultant will also be able to advise you on the best breastfeeding diet for you and your baby.
- Make sure your baby is getting a little vitamin D. Spend some time in the sun (but not enough to get burnt!). Sitting in the diluted sunlight beside a window can be a great way to do this. The vitamin D in sunlight helps to counteract the effects of jaundice.
Breast Milk Jaundice vs Breastfeeding Jaundice
Breastfeeding jaundice should not be confused with breast milk jaundice – it’s a completely different thing! Breastfeeding jaundice is caused when your baby is not getting the milk he or she needs or the nutrient levels in the milk are not right. It could be that Baby has not latched properly or that there are other problems with feeding. If your baby has breast milk jaundice, you will need to engage a lactation consultant. With support, this condition can usually be resolved within a few weeks and you can begin to breastfeed successfully. Even if you have a difficult start with nursing, breastfeeding is still the best way to give your baby the nutrients and antibodies he or she needs for the best start in life.
More Articles on the Postpartum Period
Adjusting to being a new mother is hard – both physically and emotionally. But there is a difference between having a bout of the “baby blues” and having full-blown postpartum depression. Read more about the causes, signs, and treatment of postpartum depression here.
Expressing Breast Milk:
There are lots of reasons you might choose to express breast milk – to have some time to yourself, to give your partner a chance to feed the baby, or because you’re back at work but still want to breastfeed. Read more about expressing and storing breast milk here.
Choosing practical clothes when you’re nursing can be a little tricky. You need easy access to your breasts and many women prefer nursing clothes which give them a little privacy while they’re feeding. Plus, you probably don’t want to look like you’re dressed in a sack! Check out our guide to stylish, yet practical, nursing clothes here.