Breast Feeding Help - Breastfeeding and Jaundice


Jaundice is characterized by elevated levels of bilirubin in the blood, leading to a yellowing of the skin. While this can be a normal process in newborns, it's crucial to understand how it relates to breastfeeding.

Two Types of Jaundice 

Jaundice can be divided into two main types: Conjugated Jaundice and Unconjugated Jaundice. Conjugated Jaundice occurs when the newborn's liver is still developing and unable to process bilirubin effectively. This can happen because newborns have a higher number of red blood cells than adults. However, this type of jaundice should not hinder breastfeeding and usually resolves on its own.

Unconjugated Jaundice is a milder form that typically appears around the second day of life and gradually fades away. It's usually not associated with breastfeeding and should not raise significant concerns.

Breastmilk Jaundice 

A condition known as Breastmilk Jaundice can also develop, though its exact cause remains uncertain. This form is more likely to occur in babies who are at least a week old and, interestingly, some of these babies may have also experienced Unconjugated Jaundice. If the baby is thriving, gaining weight, and showing no other concerning symptoms, Breastmilk Jaundice should not be a cause for alarm. It may last for several weeks, but it's typically a benign condition that doesn't require cessation of breastfeeding.

Not-Enough-Breastmilk Jaundice 

Sometimes, jaundice can persist or become more pronounced due to insufficient milk intake. This may occur if the baby doesn't latch effectively or if there are issues with milk supply. In such cases, it's crucial to address breastfeeding techniques and ensure the baby receives enough milk. Supplementary feeding methods, like lactation aids or breast compressions, can be beneficial without the need to discontinue breastfeeding.

Phototherapy (Bilirubin Lights) 

Phototherapy, often referred to as bilirubin lights, may be recommended in some cases. It's essential to note that breastfeeding can continue alongside phototherapy. Maintaining proper fluid intake and considering lactation aids is vital to ensure the baby's well-being during this treatment.

Questions? Email Jack Newman at, or Edith Kernerman at or consult: Dr. Jack Newman’s Guide to Breastfeeding (called The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers in the USA) or our DVD, Dr. Jack Newman’s Visual Guide to Breastfeeding; or The Latch Book and Other Keys to Breastfeeding Success; or L-eat Latch & Transfer Tool, or the GamePlan for Protecting and Supporting Breastfeeding in the First 24 Hours of Life and Beyond.  See our website at  To make an appointment email and respond to the auto reply or call 416-498-0002. 

Handout Jaundice Revised May 2008
Written and Revised by Jack Newman, MD, FRCPC 1995-2005

 This handout may be copied and distributed without further permission,
on the condition that  it is not used in any context that violates
the International WHO Code on The Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes


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