Breast milk jaundice is a type of neonatal jaundice associated with breast milk. The condition usually occurs due to substances in the breast milk that inhibit the body’s ability to breakdown bilirubin, leading to jaundice. Newborns usually develop breast milk jaundice after the first week of life.
Read this post to know about the causes, signs, diagnosis, treatment, and complications of breast milk jaundice in newborns.
What Is Breast Milk Jaundice?
It is essential to understand jaundice before understanding breast milk jaundice. The red blood cells in the body break down periodically and produce a byproduct called bilirubin. The liver processes this bilirubin and prevents its accumulation. However, in some situations, excess bilirubin persists within the body, causing the compound to accumulate in cells of the body. Since bilirubin has a natural yellow color, it causes the distinctive yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes. This condition is called jaundice.
The precise cause of breast milk jaundice is not known. It is believed to occur due to breast milk compounds that inhibit certain liver proteins from breaking down bilirubin (1). The condition usually emerges after the first week of the baby’s life (2).
Breast milk jaundice may last for a few weeks in newborns since bilirubin elimination and metabolism is slower due to immature liver functions.
It is different from breastfeeding jaundice, which is a type of neonatal jaundice that occurs due to reduced intake of breast milk for any reason. Unlike breast milk jaundice, breastfeeding jaundice may cause severe dehydration and weight loss in babies (3).