Why Does Breast Milk Jaundice Occur and When Should You Worry

Understanding why breast milk jaundice occur to moms can be essential for new parents. In most cases, jaundice in infants caused by breast milk is nothing to be concerned about; nevertheless, if your child does acquire this condition, the following information is important for you to know and will help you manage the situation effectively.

If you observe a yellowing of your infant’s skin, jaundice may cause the condition. This syndrome manifests itself in varying degrees in many neonates, with estimates ranging from 60–80 percentage points of term or late-term infants. It is especially frequent in infants who are being breastfed.

When a baby has jaundice, sometimes referred to as hyperbilirubinemia, it is because their body is not yet able to process their blood efficiently enough, which leads to excessive amounts of bilirubin being present in their circulation. This problem will typically correct itself without any intervention being required; nonetheless, it is vital to monitor the situation in case therapies are needed at any point.

Jaundice affects more than half of all infants within the first few weeks of their lives, but between twenty and thirty percent of breastfed infants develop a form of jaundice linked explicitly to breastfeeding. This kind of jaundice is referred to as breast milk jaundice. This particular form of jaundice, why it manifests itself, and when you should consult your child’s pediatrician is all covered in the following information.

What Exactly Is The “Jaundice” In Breast Milk?

According to the National Institutes of Health findings, in general, there is a greater likelihood of jaundice developing in breastfed infants than infants who are fed formula. This occurs as a result of an excessive amount of bilirubin, which is a yellowish material, being present in the baby’s blood. Bilirubin is a byproduct that results from the breakdown of red blood cells. In an adult, the liver eliminates any extra bilirubin through the urine or stool. However, a newborn’s liver is still developing, and it may be some time before it is able to work as well as it should.

Jaundice that can occur in breast milk almost always clears up on its own without having any adverse effects on the infant. However, in the unusual cases in which issues do arise, a buildup of bilirubin can cause catastrophic brain damage for the newborn. Because of this, it is essential to begin monitoring the baby as soon as possible and to maintain continuous monitoring so that therapy can be administered as required.

Jaundice From Breast Milk Versus Jaundice From Breastfeeding

It is essential to distinguish between jaundice caused by breastfeeding and jaundice caused by breast milk because these two causes are different. Jaundice caused by breastfeeding and jaundice caused by breast milk have extremely similar names and are often confused.

Breastfeeding jaundice, also known as suboptimal intake jaundice, is a condition that manifests itself in a baby who is being breastfed and either isn’t getting enough milk or is having difficulty nursing. The accumulation of bilirubin in the intestines, which is then reabsorbed, is the typical source of this condition, which appears within the first week of a newborn’s life. This particular form of jaundice is treatable by enhancing breastfeeding practices and increasing the number of feedings to assist in the elimination of excess bilirubin.

Breast milk jaundice, on the other hand, occurs even if your baby is getting enough milk and has a good latch, but they still develop jaundice. This is because breast milk contains a substance that causes jaundice. It usually begins when the baby is two weeks old and can last for as long as twelve weeks.

Symptoms of Breast Milk Jaundice

A jaundice diagnosis can be made if either the eyes or the skin turn a yellowish color. Other common manifestations of breast milk jaundice include the following:

  • A scream or cry of extremely high pitch.
  • Having a sluggish or sleepy disposition.
  • Not gaining weight.

The pediatrician who cares for your child will check your infant for jaundice both while they are in the hospital and during their routine checks. However, if you detect any of these indicators, you should make an appointment with their physician as soon as possible.

Causes of Breast Milk Jaundice

The cause of jaundice in breast milk is a mystery to medical professionals. However, scientists think it could be linked to a component of breast milk that temporarily blocks your baby’s liver from efficiently breaking down bilirubin. This particular kind of jaundice may also have a genetic component, which may be hereditary in some cases.

Diagnosis of Breast Milk Jaundice

Jaundice caused by breast milk is something that a newborn who is being breastfed will typically show signs of within the first few weeks. Although your infant is likely nursing effectively, gaining weight appropriately, and producing an adequate amount of wet diapers, their bilirubin levels may be higher than normal. A blood test is often used to diagnose this condition. If the levels are high enough, you may notice that your baby’s skin or eyes have become yellowish.

Treatment for Jaundice Caused by Breast Milk

Jaundice caused by breast milk does not typically require any kind of medical treatment. Phototherapy is frequently used as a treatment for jaundice that is more severe. This treatment can be carried out either in a medical facility or at the patient’s home. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that donor milk or formula may need to be used as part of a patient’s treatment plan. In extremely unusual cases, a diagnosis of jaundice in breast milk may require that you temporarily discontinue breastfeeding your child.

In general, though, increasing the number of times you breastfeed your infant can assist with hydration and aid in eliminating excess bilirubin from their body.

Is It Possible to Prevent Jaundice in Breast Milk?

Since there is no way to eliminate jaundice in breast milk, you will likely not be asked to discontinue nursing if your baby develops jaundice. Two or three months after delivery, although your infant may still appear healthy and be feeding normally, jaundice may still be present. This jaundice is harmless, and in the vast majority of cases, it clears up on its own; moreover, it is not your fault that it has appeared. Be sure your infant is getting fed every two to four hours, and visit a lactation expert if you’re worried about breastfeeding.

When to Be Concerned About Jaundice in Infants

Breastfeeding jaundice typically clears up on its own and does not warrant alarm, but if it is allowed to persist without treatment, it can become a problem. If you discover that your baby isn’t nursing well or isn’t wetting a diaper at least once every six hours, you should call your doctor right away. It is essential to take measures to prevent your infant from becoming dehydrated; therefore, if you have any doubts or concerns, it is advisable to err on the side of caution. Notify your baby’s doctor as soon as possible if the yellowing is spreading down to your baby’s tummy or legs or if your baby is lethargic since this could indicate that their jaundice is growing worse.

The Heart of the Matter

For the most part, breast milk-related jaundice goes away on its own and does not need medical care. However, if you have any questions or concerns regarding your baby’s health or feeding them, or if you require further support, go to the doctor who is treating your infant.

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