What Is Breast Milk Jaundice? Know Causes, Symptoms and Prevention Tips

Breast milk jaundice is a rare condition caused in newborns within a week after birth. Timely diagnosis can prevent it from worsening

Gandharv Gulati
Written by: Gandharv GulatiUpdated at: Jun 10, 2020 10:04 IST
What Is Breast Milk Jaundice? Know Causes, Symptoms and Prevention Tips

3rd Edition of HealthCare Heroes Awards 2023

Jaundice or the disease which causes your body and eyes to become yellow is quite common in both children and adults. However, you must haven’t heard about breast milk jaundice which is a rare type of jaundice caused in breast-fed newborns. This condition is so rare that only about 3 percent of newborns get this. Parents need to be watchful for any unusual sign from the baby to protect him against this problem. If left untreated for long, your baby may suffer from severe health consequences like hearing loss, brain damage, etc. Here is everything that new parents need to know about breast milk jaundice.


What Is Breast Milk Jaundice

Jaundice is common but breast milk jaundice is rare as it has a link with breast milk. Newborns usually get jaundice after birth as their liver is still underdeveloped to get rid of the bilirubin pigment which causes jaundice and yellowing. Babies are born with a greater number of red blood cells. Bilirubin is produced when the RBCs breakdown therefore, the body of a newborn produces larger amounts of this yellow pigment. Our liver is responsible to get this pigment out of the body by processing it to the intestine. One gets jaundice when their liver is ill-functioning. Since a baby’s liver is not so developed, it may cause bilirubin to remain in the body causing jaundice.

Also Read: Jaundice Care: Here’s What Causes Jaundice In Newborn Babies

Breast milk jaundice is associated with breastfeeding as it is speculated that breast milk has a substance that inhibits bilirubin breakdown. In most cases, it gets cured on its own but it is better to consult a doctor.

Causes of Breast Milk Jaundice


As stated above, the main cause of breast milk jaundice is a substance in the mother’s milk that hinders the process of breaking down bilirubin pigment. When the concentration of bilirubin increases in the body, it causes yellowing which is the main sign of jaundice. As the liver of the baby starts to develop, it can break down bilirubin easily. 

Breast Milk Jaundice Symptoms

You newborn may show these symptoms within a week of birth which is are indications of breast milk jaundice:

  • Yellowing of skin and eyes
  • Continous high-pitched crying
  • Listlessness
  • Fatigue


Every breastfed newborn is at risk of breast milk jaundice. In some cases, this is genetic where someone from their family had breast milk jaundice. This increases the chances of the newborn baby getting breast milk jaundice.

Diagnosis of Breast Milk Jaundice

When parents see any symptoms of jaundice in the child, they must take them to the lactation consultant to check the baby. Also, the doctor may conduct a blood test to check the level of bilirubin in the baby’s body. Only after the diagnosis, the doctor can suggest the treatment. Also, there are various Ayurvedic treatments available for jaundice, but expert intervention is required.

Also Read: Indian Diet For Jaundice Patients: What To Eat and What To Avoid, Explains Nutritionist Nmami Agarwal

However, it is not advised to discontinue breastfeeding. Feeding milk can help the baby pass bilirubin through stools. Mild jaundice can subside with time. Only severe cases require medical attention. Your doctor can best guide you about the process. Whenever you see any unusual symptom in the baby, consult a doctor to avert any serious or underlying condition.

Read more articles on New Born Care