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Breast milk jaundice

Maria Fernanda
3 min read

Did you know that in a small percentage of newborns, breast milk can cause a yellow discoloration of their skin? This is what is known as breast milk jaundice.

In addition, this yellowing of the skin and mucous membranes of the newborn is transitory.

Also, it is known that bilirubin, the pigment that causes the yellow color, is higher in newborns at terms that are breastfed.

What is jaundice?

Jaundice is the yellowing of the skin and mucous membranes and occurs when bilirubin increases in the blood.

In newborns, this type of affectation is common, but as long as it is a physiological jaundice, that is, normal.

Breast milk jaundice – Wellness and Health – WebMediums
Breastfeeding jaundice

In relation to the foregoing, there are some parameters that indicate when jaundice is not normal and suggests the presence of a disease.

What is jaundice associated with breastfeeding?

Also, known as breast milk jaundice, it is a disorder in which the newborn turns yellow in the first week of life.

Now, this jaundice has two stages of presentation, the early and the late onset.

The first corresponds when jaundice begins in the first week of life, while the second is when it appears after 7 or 10 days of life.

What Causes Breast Milk Jaundice?

The etiology is not precise, but what is known is that one of the possible causes is an increase in the passage of bilirubin in the enterohepatic circulation.

This results in greater reabsorption of the pigment. A vital piece of information is that bilirubin is excreted in the stool in the form of stercobilin.

What happens is that in the newborn there is an enzyme in the intestine that does not allow bilirubin to pass into stercobilin, but to be deconjugated. For this reason, it can be reabsorbed again.

Likewise, the above is related to the fact that children who are breastfed eliminate less stool in the first days after birth.

Breast milk jaundice – Wellness and Health – WebMediums

However, the literature indicates that the appearance of this jaundice could be avoided if the intakes are more frequent, because they can be higher and allow the elimination of feces.

Consequently, there is more bilirubin substrate that can return to the enterohepatic circulation.

On the other hand, the late jaundice pattern is characterized by the fact that after the first week, bilirubin values begin to rise.

In addition, the frequency is usually 1% to 3% of children who are breastfed.

What to do in this situation?

Previously, it was recommended to stop breastfeeding. What's more, the practice was to suppress breastfeeding for 12 and 24 hours.

Subsequently, the measurement of bilirubin in the blood was requested and, if this decreased, it was attributed to breast milk.

It should be noted that the newborn should not present another symptom that suggests an infection.

However, at present this practice has been eliminated, since it is related to the cessation of breastfeeding.

Breast milk jaundice – Wellness and Health – WebMediums
What does in this situation?

When to go to the doctor?

The immune system of newborns does not respond like that of the adult. This is why neonates can develop serious, life-threatening infections.

In turn, during the neonatal stage the signs and symptoms are nonspecific most of the time, and jaundice is a sign that occurs frequently in neonatal pathologies.

So, if the newborn begins to turn yellow before 24 hours of life, has a fever, is irritable or sleepy and does not suck the mother's breast, it should be taken immediately to a health center.

Finally, a complete and timely medical evaluation is important to rule out possible infectious and non-infectious causes that are causing the jaundice.