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Jaundice and Newborns: Back to Articles
by Lauren Feder, M.D.

Excerpt from Natural Baby and Childcare

How do I know if my baby is abnormally jaundiced?
Note any changes in your baby's coloring. It is best to observe in natural daylight. Gently press your finger on your baby's tip of nose or forehead. If the skin looks pale when pressing, there is no jaundice (this can be done on babies of all skin colors). A yellow hue indicates there is jaundice. If so, don't panic! Call your doctor to discuss course of action, if any.

What if my doctor says breastfeeding is causing baby's jaundice?
There are still many pediatricians who lack strong foundations in breastfeeding and more familiar with formula fed newborns who have slightly lower bilirubin levels. It is not uncommon for doctors to recommend a mother temporarily discontinue breastfeeding and give babies bottles of sugar water in hopes of reducing bilirubin levels. This has been shown to be ineffective and may even increase baby's jaundice. Nursing promotes bilirubin to be excreted in stools. Breast milk jaundice is a rare condition that occurs in 1% of newborn jaundice cases.

There is a research that has concluded that a slight elevation in bilirubin may actually be helpful in preventing bacterial infections in newborns. Bilirubin also has the ability to function as an antioxidant in the brain. According to Dr. Sylvain Dore of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, "When women breastfeed, the babies have higher levels of bilirubin and are healthier. Babies with higher bilirubin levels are more disease-resistant. Bilirubin also protects against retinopathy in premature babies."


 
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