Phototherapy for the Treatment of Neonatal Jaundice and Breastfeeding Duration and Exclusivity

Breastfeed Med. 2016 May;11:180-5. doi: 10.1089/bfm.2015.0170. Epub 2016 Apr 8.


Introduction: Because neonatal jaundice remains one of the most commonly treated conditions of the newborn infant, it is important to assess the unintended consequences of treatment with phototherapy. The objective of this study was to evaluate whether treatment with phototherapy affects breastfeeding duration in newborns >35 weeks gestation.

Materials and methods: We analyzed data from the Infant Feeding Practices Study II. The exposure of interest was treatment of neonatal jaundice with phototherapy. The outcomes of interest were any breastfeeding through 12 months and exclusive breastfeeding through 4 months. Logistic regression models were developed to evaluate the association between the exposure and outcomes of interest. All models were adjusted for maternal age, race, education, household income, and gestational age, as well as for several potential markers of suboptimal breastfeeding.

Results: Our study included 4,441 infants, of which 220 (5%) received phototherapy. We found no difference in the likelihood of any breastfeeding through 9 months of age, however, by 12 months, infants exposed to phototherapy were less likely to still be breastfed than those who were not exposed (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 0.58, 95% confidence interval [95% CI] 0.37-0.92). Infants exposed to phototherapy were less likely to be exclusively breastfed throughout the first 4 months of life.

Conclusion: Although phototherapy use did not substantially impact rates of any breastfeeding during the first year, it was associated with decreased rates of exclusive breastfeeding in the first 4 months of life. This suggests that we need to tailor messaging to mothers of infants receiving phototherapy to promote exclusive breastfeeding.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breast Feeding / psychology
  • Breast Feeding / statistics & numerical data*
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S.
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Formula / statistics & numerical data*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Jaundice, Neonatal / therapy*
  • Logistic Models
  • Maternal Behavior
  • Mothers* / psychology
  • Phototherapy*
  • United States