Breast milk jaundice occurs when an otherwise healthy infant, suffers from jaundice for six weeks. Read on to know about its causes and treatment in the following AptParenting article.
When red blood cells in the body complete their life cycle of 120 days, they are broken down and the pigment that is released after this process is called bilirubin. It is this pigment, which causes the skin color to change to yellow. The condition is known as jaundice. The body parts that are initially affected by jaundice are the sclera and the face. The symptoms then progress to other parts of the body, like, the abdomen, the trunk and then, arms and legs. A neurologic evaluation that checks for any kind of change in the newborn’s reflexes or movements, helps to know if elevated bilirubin levels are high enough to cause any damage to the brain.
Before we learn how to treat this condition, make sure you check the bilirubin levels of the child thoroughly. Usually, if the levels are somewhere around 12 mg/dl to around 17 mg/dl, then you simply need to increase the frequency of breastfeeding your child from eight to twelve times a day. Remember that, this is to be done in cases where the baby is healthy but shows signs of jaundice.
If the bilirubin levels are between 17 mg/dl and 25 mg/dl, then the fastest way to lower them is to not feed the child for an entire day and instead, feed it with a formula and use phototherapy. Still, consult with your doctor and do this only if he has advised you to.
If the bilirubin levels cross 25 mg/dl, you should immediately consult a neonatologist. A follow-up, that includes monitoring the progress and the weight of the child, is of paramount importance. This would ensure that the condition doesn’t worsen into severe jaundice and would also prevent hypernatremic dehydration.
Many tend to get confused between breastfeeding jaundice and breast milk jaundice. One of the main differences is that the latter is caused due to a biochemical problem, whereas the former occurs due to insufficient intake of breast milk. These conditions are however, not meant to be taken lightly. In extremely rare cases, the occurrence of a condition known as bilirubin encephalopathy or kernicterus causes the bilirubin to cross the blood-brain barrier and result in brain damage. Although bilirubin encephalopathy is more common in breastfeeding jaundice than in breast milk-jaundiced children, the probability of it occuring in either conditions is the same. On the whole, the prognosis of this condition is very good and usually, with the help of some precautions, it resolves on its own after six weeks. If the condition prevails even after six weeks, it is best to consult your neonatologist, so that he may guide you accordingly.