What is the Treatment for Jaundice in the Breastfed baby?
If bilirubin levels are below 20 milligrams, the following treatments are often used for breastmilk jaundice and breastfeeding jaundice in the full term, healthy infant:
- Increase feedings to 8-12 times a day. The best way to decrease bilirubin levels it to help remove it—increased feedings will increase bowel movements, which will excrete the bilirubin.
- Work with a lactation professional to make sure that the baby is latched on the breast well, so that he/she can take in as much milk as needed. Improper latch can directly affect how much milk a baby is receiving.
- If a supplementation is recommended to increase baby’s calories and intake, work with a lactation professional to use a lactation aid. The mom would also want to pump during this time, to not interrupt the production of her milk. Using a lactation aid to deliver expressed breastmilk or a mixture of breastmilk and formula is the best way to not interrupt the breastfeeding relationship.
- Rarely is the interruption of breastfeeding an effective treatment for jaundice in a breastfed baby. If a baby’s bilirubin levels reach 20 milligrams or above, a recommendation to cease breastfeeding for 24 hours may be used in conjunction with phototherapy. This can usually drop bilirubin levels dramatically and the mom can then resume breastfeeding as normal after the 24 hour period. Using a lactation aid to deliver supplementation and pumping during this 24 hour period would be the best way to avoid any problems in the breastfeeding relationship.
- If phototherapy is recommended (usually only if bilirubin levels reach over 15-20 milligrams), talk with your health care provider about using fiber optic blankets. These can be taken home and allow mom to continue the breastfeeding relationship, with no interruptions. Increased feedings and the use of the bilirubin lights should effectively lower the bilirubin levels.
If a baby is premature or has any other health conditions, the treatment would need to be individualized by the health care provider.