The relationship between infant feeding type and the occurrence and natural history of neonatal jaundice in term newborn infants has been studied. A retrospective chart review of 124 records confirmed earlier reports indicating that jaundice is recognized more often in breast-fed than in formula-fed infants. A prospective cohort study of 140 term newborn infants was conducted using the Minolta Air-Shields transcutaneous jaundice meter. For 3 weeks, 115 white infants and 25 black infants were followed at predetermined intervals. The peak jaundice meter readings were higher and the elevated levels lasted longer in breast-fed than in formula-fed infants. Formula-fed infants' readings returned to base-line levels in eight days whereas the readings were still elevated in breast-fed infants when the study ended on the 21st day. Black infants had higher transcutaneous readings than white infants due to their deeper skin pigmentation, but otherwise they followed a course identical with that of the white babies. The distribution of jaundice in the white infants was bimodal; in approximately one fourth of the breast-fed infants, the jaundice meter readings reached levels corresponding to bilirubin values >13 mg/dL whereas the remaining three fourths followed a pattern similar to that of the formula-fed infants. It can be concluded that human milk feeding is associated with more prolonged hyperbilirubinemia than formula-feeding in normal term infants.
- Received August 1, 1983.
- Accepted December 23, 1983.
- Copyright © 1984 by the American Academy of Pediatrics