Breastfeeding a jaundiced baby

I was very lucky with my son. He knew how to feed, was extremely alert at birth and never had any problems with latching.

This April, we welcomed our daughter into our family. She was an entirely different story. She didn’t latch well, and didn’t seem too interested in the breast. She then developed jaundice which made her sleepy and disinterested in feeding. It would take 5-10 minutes to get her latched on and then she would often slip off or fall asleep within seconds.

Jaundice is extremely common in newborns and not usually a cause for concern unless it is severe. However, the symptoms of sleepiness and lethargy can cause problems for breastfeeding. There is also a risk it will get worse if they are not feeding enough.

What things are helpful for this situation? We didn’t resort to using formula and breastfeeding is improving. Here’s some tips if you encounter problems establishing breastfeeding with your newborn.

breastfeeding newborns with jaundice

How to get a newborn interested in feeding

When you’ve got a sleepy, jaundiced baby that doesn’t easily wake up, the first thing you should do is make the uncomfortable. Undress them, change their nappy, then put them for skin-to-skin. This will usually rouse them and get them interested in looking for the nipple.

When your baby is jaundiced waking them for feeds is very important. Hydration will help to clear it out, but the worse the jaundice gets the sleepier and more difficult to wake they will become, and the more problems they will have with breastfeeding.

If you’re having a lot of problems with feeding due to jaundice, expressing milk and giving it to your baby is helpful. Extracting milk from a bottle is easier for them, and you can monitor how much milk they are consuming. As their jaundice gets better and they are less sleepy, you can then usually return to breastfeeding.

Remember, breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt. Make sure you have a good latch and it’s okay to break baby off and try again if it’s hurting. You should also not see any milk running out of their mouth, and no clicking noises. If feeding is anything more than uncomfortable, something is wrong. Seek help from a lactation consultant or a midwife.

Summarized

  1. Undress, change nappy, and make them uncomfortable
  2. skin to skin
  3. when baby starts searching for nipple, try to get them to latch
  4. If baby is too sleepy to have a decent feed, use expressed milk
  5. Waking for feeds is important when dealing with jaundice.
  6. Using expressed milk can be helpful if baby is too sleepy to breastfeed. When the baby recovers from the jaundice and is less sleepy, breastfeeding can resume.
  7. Make sure your baby is latched properly and ask for help if you’re having trouble.

Prevent baby sleeping at the breast

The other issue you may encounter in the early stages of breastfeeding, is baby falling asleep at the breast. This is a problem because it prevents the baby from getting a decent feed, and they also won’t get the hind milk, which contains more fat and will help them to gain weight.

  1. Undress the baby and remove your shirt for skin to skin contact. This should make the baby more active and interested.
  2. wiggle their nose
  3. stroke the palms of their hand or the soles of their feet
  4. Put pressure on or tap their chin
  5. Compress the breast while the baby is feeding. This will allow them to get milk easier and prevent them giving up on feeding because it’s not coming fast enough.

Is baby getting enough?

Look at the baby’s hands. If they fall asleep at the breast, but their hands and face are relaxed, then they are full. If their hands are clenched into fists and face looks tense, they haven’t gotten enough.

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