Letter to Ms Kang Phaik Gaik, Head, Parentcraft/Lactation at Mount Alvernia Hospital
Q: I heard that breastfeeding my baby who has jaundice will worsen the condition. My mother-in-law recommends formula feed till the jaundice goes away; and it also seems that formula-fed babies feel fuller and sleep better than breastfed babies.
A: There are many factors that cause jaundice in newborn babies. It’s common that babies might develop physiological jaundice a few days after birth due to their immature livers. A baby may be sleepy and not demand for feeds. Such infrequent feeding and poor latching on the breasts might lead to insufficient calorie intake which might worsen the jaundice. Mothers need to wake their sleepy babies to encourage them to feed. If a mother is able to latch her baby well and frequently to receive enough milk, the calories in breastmilk help to bind the bilirubin in baby’s gut with its stool. This enables the excretion of the bilirubin through the stools and the jaundice level improves.
Formula-fed babies do tend to feel fuller as the formula milk has more casein which changes to milk curds thus delaying digestion. However, formula-fed babies may not necessarily sleep better than breastfed babies as they may experience tummy upset or colic due to bottle feeding. Breastmilk is more soothing to a baby’s tummy, is easily digested and absorbed. Hence with a comfortable tummy, baby sleeps better.
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