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Does formula feeding really help with jaundice?

With my last baby, he had jaundice pretty bad and the doctor made me stop breastfeeding and formula feed until he cleared up. I also had to keep him in the hospital under the light for several days at the same time. But after that he never wanted to breastfeed, and I had the hardest time and finally gave up. Was it really necessary to formula feed him? I'm having another baby and just want to know a little more about it so if the same thing happens with this one I'll know a little more.


Asked by montanagal2005 at 10:36 PM on Dec. 5, 2010 in Babies (0-12 months)

Level 17 (4,126 Credits)
This question is closed.
Answers (13)
  • Not true that formula fed newborns poop more than BF ones. Colostrum is a laxative and many newborns poop at every feeding. Formula can be constipating and plug things up. And as billirubin is excreted by the bowels, it's important to keep breastfeeding.

    The only reason to supplement is if baby is jaundiced/not getting better because of a *lack* of milk. In that case, yes, formula will help to clear the jaundice and it can be fed at the breast to help prevent nipple preference and encourage moms milk. You want to see one diaper per day of life up to day 6 and at least 6 thereafter.

    If baby is making enough diapers and levels are still going up (20 is the number you don't want to go above in week one, 25 in week two), then your doctor needs to look at other reasons. Low level jaundice can remain in a breastfed infant for months... and it's actually a good thing. At low levels billirubin has an anti-oxidant effect.

    Answer by LeanneC at 11:09 AM on Dec. 6, 2010

  • Most doctors know very little about breast feeding and human lactation. My sister is a med student. She will get a 20 min lecture on human lactation. That's it.

    The incorrect belief that formula helps clear jaundice is because some babies develop jaundice a week after birth or so known as "breast milk jaundice" which is a slight incase in bilirubin that easily goes away with more nursing and sun light. Also, feeding can flush out jaundice. It is "easy" to load a baby with formula and flush the bilirubin. Its harder for a doctor to measure direct fed breast milk. An infant nursed on demand and offered the breast before signs of hunger WILL flush bilirubin.

    Answer by ecodani at 11:37 PM on Dec. 5, 2010

  • Both of my last babies were jaundice,one of them had to lay in a billi bed for 4 weeks, and I exclusively breastfed them both.

    Answer by MrsLeftlane at 10:39 PM on Dec. 5, 2010

  • my son had it and my docotor told me to breastfeed.

    Answer by Jenaiko01 at 10:41 PM on Dec. 5, 2010

  • It doesn't have to be an all or nothing thing. You can use a supplemental feeding system so they continue to latch to the breast but also get formula thru a little tube taped to the breast to help them clear the high billi levels fast. Best of both worlds really. High billi levels can severely effect the brain so i certainly wouldn't want billi levels to stay high for 4wks. Yikes!

    Answer by karamille at 10:42 PM on Dec. 5, 2010

  • hmm, well the sun cleared up my daughter's jaundice so i'm not speaking from personal experience. i do know that some types of jaundice are caused by a substance in the mother's breast milk which increases the bilirubin levels, but that's pretty rare, like only 1% or 2%. so in that case it would be wise to supplement with formula until it's under control. i would say if it happens again stress to the dr. that you want to supplement with the formula until it's cleared up and not totally stop nursing. but gl and hopefully this baby will be fine.


    Answer by princessbeth79 at 10:43 PM on Dec. 5, 2010

  • My daughter had jaundice and had to be put on a bili-light at home for five days. She never had a drop of formula. Would formula have made the jaundice go away sooner? Maybe, but I'd rather she have a little bit of jaundice for a couple days than have formula. The bilirubin level has to be really high in order for it to actually be bad and with each passing day, the level can be higher. My daughter was pretty lethargic but I nursed her every 1.5 hours during the day and every 2 hours at night. I set the alarm clock during the night. I would often have to put a cool damp wash cloth on her to keep her awake long enough to nurse. Once she stopped using the bili-light, then I just nursed her on demand. If you do have to use formula, I wouldn't give it from a bottle. I would nurse first, then use a supplimental nursing system at the breast. And I would stand my ground on that, no matter what the nurses and doctors said.

    Answer by Christina807 at 10:51 PM on Dec. 5, 2010

  • Never heard the formula thing. Just that they need the special light in the hosp or sunlight. Weird!

    Answer by MommysAngels810 at 10:53 PM on Dec. 5, 2010

  • My dd had very mild jaundice when she was 3 days old and we were told by the nurses after they noticed it that BF'ing on demand would clear it up faster than FF. The chemistry of breastmilk helps more. My understanding with getting mom's to supplement is so that the baby gets more quantity to help flush out the bilirubin. Talk to the LC and pediatrician if your next LO has jaundice, the recommendations have changed over the last couple years.

    Answer by rhianna1708 at 11:34 PM on Dec. 5, 2010

  • Jaundice is basically the liver having troubles passing things through. Causing the body to yellow up as it doesn't do what it is supposed to do properly. Therefore, it is important to flush fluids through it to help it kick into gear and work properly. I'm not certain on what the light does, but that does help greatly. Now when my son was born he was really juandiced and the doctor encouraged me to keep breastfeeding. Regardless of how much my son faught it I tried and tried. She assured me that getting him to eat would turn his jaundice around. Now, I've not heard that breastfeeding works over Forumla (and visa versa) I've only heard that feeding in general helps greatly.

    Answer by JazzlikeMraz at 11:50 PM on Dec. 5, 2010