Breast feeding and jaundice in the first week of life

J Fam Pract. 1985 May;20(5):475-80.


Infants who most commonly receive treatment for neonatal hyperbilirubinemia are breast-fed babies in whom no cause for the jaundice can be determined. Hyperbilirubinemia in these newborns may not be caused by the breast feeding as such, but rather by inadequate nursing. This paper reports attempts to decrease readmissions for phototherapy at the UCLA Medical Center by inducing earlier and more functional lactation in the entire nursery population and by formula feeding infants whose bilirubins approached recommended treatment levels. Nursing was interrupted for 24 to 48 hours in 87 newborns; six still required readmission, while 81 were successfully treated at home. At the two-week well-baby visit, no differences in the incidence of breast feeding were found when comparing nonjaundiced breast-fed babies with infants who were taken off the breast or who were readmitted for phototherapy. Differences in the cost of care were significant with an average cost per patient of $126 for those treated at home compared with $1,440 for those readmitted. Policies designed to induce earlier lactation did nothing to decrease the incidence of exaggerated jaundice in the study's breast-fed population. It was concluded that supervised setting with careful counseling and follow-up, can provide an effective alternative to readmission and phototherapy in the treatment of jaundice.

MeSH terms

  • Bilirubin / blood
  • Body Weight
  • Bottle Feeding
  • Breast Feeding*
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Jaundice, Neonatal / economics
  • Jaundice, Neonatal / etiology*
  • Jaundice, Neonatal / therapy
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care
  • Patient Readmission
  • Phototherapy
  • Prospective Studies


  • Bilirubin