Alternate Names : Hyperbilirubinemia – breast-feeding
Jaundice is a condition that causes the skin and parts of the eyes to turn a yellow color.
Breast milk jaundice is long-term jaundice in an otherwise healthy, breast-fed baby. It develops after the first week of life and continues up to the sixth week of life.
Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors
Bilirubin is a yellow pigment that is created as the body gets rid of old red blood cells. The liver helps break down bilirubin so that it can be removed from the body in the stool.
If jaundice occurs or persists past the first week of life in an otherwise healthy and thriving breast-fed infant, the condition may be called “breast milk jaundice.” It is probably caused by factors in the breast milk, which block certain proteins in the liver that break down bilirubin.
Breast milk jaundice tends to run in families. It occurs equally often in males and females and affects approximately 0.5% to 2.4% of all newborns.
Pictures & Images
Using bili lights is a therapeutic procedure performed on newborn or premature infants to reduce elevated levels of bilirubin. If blood levels of bilirubin become too high, the bilirubin begins to dissolve in the body tissues, producing the characteristic yellow eyes and skin of jaundice. Bilirubin also has an affinity for brain tissue, where it can accumulate and cause permanent brain damage.
Newborn jaundice (producing yellow skin) can have many causes, but the majority of these infants have a condition called physiological jaundice, a natural occurrence in the newborn due to the immature liver. This type of jaundice is short term, generally lasting only a few days. Jaundice should be evaluated by a physician until decreasing or normal levels of bilirubin are measured in the blood.
Review Date : 1/29/2010
Reviewed By : Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.