Welcoming a baby into the world is one of the most amazing experiences that a woman will ever have. It’s such a joyful and overwhelming time in a mother’s life. Here is this precious little one, completely dependent upon you for survival, and so tiny and vulnerable.
There are many concerns a new mother might have upon her baby’s arrival and it can be easy to become overwhelmed with the information available when an issue arises. Some mothers become so overwhelmed that they stop listening to their instincts and just blindly follow any advice offered to them. First time mothers are especially susceptible to this because they simply do not know what to do.
If my first child had been diagnosed with jaundice, that’s exactly what I would have done because I knew absolutely nothing about being a mother. By the time that we had our second child, things had changed. I was more educated and more confident in my own parental instincts.
When Aron was born, we were delighted. Here was our little 9lb 6oz prince, just as healthy and chubby as could be. We now had what many would call “the perfect family:” one girl and one boy.
Our little chubba bubba was delivered without any complications and latched on to nurse like a pro the first time. His tests were all normal and we were just ecstatic to finally have him here (10 days after his due date!).
Then the night before we were planning to leave the hospital, they did a few more routine screenings on him and that’s when they came and told us that our precious newborn boy had jaundice.
I didn’t even really know how to process what that meant. I’d heard of jaundice in books and stories, but never known anyone whose baby had it.
WHAT IS JAUNDICE?
From the CDC:
Jaundice, or yellowing of the skin and eyes, occurs when a normal substance, bilirubin, builds up in the newborn’s bloodstream faster than the liver can break it down and excrete it through the baby’s stool.
The doctor immediately started telling me about how I would most likely HAVE to supplement with formula in order for Aron to overcome this diagnosis. He gave me a speech about how exclusively breastfed babies have a hard time recovering properly without the supplementation and how they could offer me some samples to get me started there in the hospital.
Immediately my Mommy alarm went off. Something just didn’t set well with me about this advice, even though it came from a pediatrician. God designed women’s bodies to produce this wonderfully amazing milk for our babies. Aron was nursing just fine and his jaundice case was on the mild end of the spectrum. So I did something that many would disagree with…I politely told the doctor that I had no need for the formula and that I would continue to nurse him exclusively unless the problem worsened.
The doctor didn’t seem to like my resistance to his suggestions, but did acquiesce to them. He did, however, remind me multiple times before leaving the hospital that if at Aron’s next check up his bilirubin levels had not dropped, then formula would be my best bet.
There are many treatments for jaundice, depending on the severity of the condition. In Aron’s case, the day we went home from the hospital, a medical supplier brought us a bili blanket, a portable phototherapy device. To use it, we were instructed to lay Aron on top of it, in just his diaper, while it was on and swaddle it and him together. The hardest part about this arrangement was that we were supposed to leave him lying on the bili blanket as much as possible, so we couldn’t carry him around as much as we would have liked to at that time.
Other than that I just tried to nurse him as much as he would take. I had read about the benefits of nursing on jaundice when we came home. Turns out that breastmilk
TIPS FOR NURSING A JAUNDICED NEWBORN
- Nurse your baby as much as possible, ideally at least 8-12 times daily(breastmilk helps eliminate bilirubin since it helps them have more frequent stools)
- Know your baby’s feeding cues, so you don’t miss an opportunity for a feeding
- Make sure your baby has a proper latch and gets a full feeding at each nursing session
- Do not supplement with sugar water
- Remember that nothing about your breastmilk is bad for baby
- Trust your Mommy instinct, but if things worsen don’t hesitate to speak to a lactation consultant and your doctor
When Aron went in a few days later, his bilirubin had dropped enough so that we could discontinue use of the bili blanket, but they were not low enough to put him in the clear. For his first week or so of life, my main focus was on nursing him as often as he liked and as often as he would accept a feeding. At his next appointment, he was cleared completely of any signs of jaundice and I was happy that I had listened to my maternal instincts.
While I’m certainly not advocating for anyone to ignore a doctor’s diagnosis and advice, I am suggesting that you don’t always have to squash your gut feelings just because a doctor is advising something different from what you feel is right. God gave us those instincts for a reason!
For more information on newborns with jaundice and breastfeeding:
A Mama’s Story, Raising Arrows, The Better Mom, The Modest Mom, What Joy is Mine, Far Above Rubies, Growing Home, Time Warp Wife, Raising Homemakers, Deep Roots at Home, Women Living Well, and Raising Mighty Arrows,