Jaundice is extremely common, affecting probably 30-50 percent of newborns. It is more common in premature infants, sick infants, and those who ingest breast milk. Breast milk jaundice is typically harmless, but sometimes needs to be followed closely with blood tests and may need to be treated. This does not mean there is anything wrong with Mom’s breast milk – this is a common occurrence easily overcome without stopping breast-feeding.
Jaundice can be harmful, especially in vulnerable infants – and can lead to a neurologic disorder called kernicterus. For this reason, your pediatrician may need to follow your baby’s bilirubin levels more closely and start treatment. “It is truly a case-by-case decision and is related to the age of the infant, whether or not the infant was premature and had other coexisting factors,” says Sarah A. Aydt, MD, FAAP, FACP, pediatrician at Saint Francis Medical Center. Most infants with jaundice do well, whether or not they need treatment, and fortunately kernicterus is rare as we typically recognize jaundice before it becomes a problem.
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