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Jaundice & the Breastfed Baby

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Newborn jaundice is normal in most cases, appearing within 2-3 days post-birth, and affecting up to 60% of full-term babies.

Physiologic jaundice is caused by a buildup of bilirubin, which is produced when red blood cells are broken down. The liver is responsible for eliminating the bilirubin, but a newborn’s liver is often too immature to efficiently handle this process yet. This causes a yellow cast on the skin (which can be trickier to detect in dark-skinned babies) and the eyeballs. This resolves itself in a week or two as the baby matures further and red blood cell levels have lowered.

In a breastfed baby, jaundice is more common and tends to persist longer than a formula-fed baby (as breastfed babies are the standard, this means it’s the norm). True breastmilk jaundice, which only affects 0.5% to 2.4% of newborns, sticks around longer than one or two weeks, sometimes up to twelve (now, this shouldn’t be confused with breastfeeding jaundice, which is caused by starvation/lack of proper milk intake). Bilirubin levels might even increase at the two-week mark. None of this is a cause for concern in an otherwise healthy baby.

On how breastmilk and formula compare in causality of newborn jaundice, Dr. Sears says:

“The difference is thought to be due to an as-yet unidentified factor in breastmilk that promotes increased intestinal absorption of bilirubin, so that it goes back into the bloodstream rather than moving on to the liver. Higher rates of jaundice in breastfed infants may also be related to lower milk intakes in the first days after birth, because of infrequent or inefficient feeding.”

Hence, why medical treatments should be avoided unless truly necessary because they threaten to interrupt breastfeeding further. As breastmilk helps move the baby’s bowels to remove excess bilirubin, frequent feedings will hasten the normal bodily process.

If bilirubin levels have reached more than 20 milligrams, a health provider might recommend treatment with phototherapy (ask about fiber optic blankets, an especially good option for nursing moms).

What not to do: do not supplement with sugar water, and do not restrict the baby from breastfeeding.

Links:

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What to Consider Before Sharing Your Birth Photos

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Thinking about sharing your birth photographs with friends, family, on social media, hanging them up in your foyer, perhaps printing them in a coffee table book for home visitors to peruse?

Here are a few worthwhile things to consider first.

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4 Reasons Why You Should Get Photos of Your Birth

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Wondering whether you should take photos of your birth? The short answer is… yes, you should! If you’re against the idea or on the fence, you might think you’ll be too bashful, grossed out, or nonchalant to ever want to look at them. But wouldn’t it be nice to know you have the option, just in case you have a change of heart?

If photography is in your birth plan, make a point to designate someone responsible for charging the camera ahead of time and setting the time stamps correctly. They should know how to operate the camera (especially in low-lighted settings because flash might disturb your labor). They should be prepared with a list of moments you don’t want them to miss (whatever you think will be meaningful to you — the birth altar you spent an hour setting up, crowning, first latch, separation of the cord, any surprise events, get creative!).

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13 Ideas For a More Pleasant Postpartum

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Mamas, here are some ideas that can make the postpartum era feel comforting, warm, nurturing, and even beautiful. This is a time of great transformation, and when the rough surface is polished away, one for new beginnings. Give it space to live up to its potential as perhaps one of the most forgiving and therapeutic eras of your life.

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Julep’s Water Birth at Home

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This is the story of my second child’s birth. My first son MaiTai was born three and a half years ago in a hospital. (I’ll share details of that tale in a future post).

***BEFORE YOU READ: Again, this is a birth story. If you’re not accustomed to reading real birth stories, are uncomfortable with images of birth-related nudity, or have a very particular definition of what’s TMI, you might consider skipping this post.***

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Julep’s First Latches

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Julep latched for the first time twenty-four minutes after he was born on April 28th. I remember the feeling was… beautiful. It felt right.

Memories of MaiTai’s first latch attempts in the hospital three and a half years ago came flooding back. Was I really doing this again? How lucky am I! And what work we have ahead of us…

Other details of the moment are all a blur now. I nursed this bright-eyed, alert baby on and off during my time on the bed right after birthing him in a pool several feet away.

*All photos credited to Stephanie Shirley Photography.*

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Introducing Baby Julep!

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Our second-born son is finally in our arms!

Baby Julep (as usual, not his real name) was born into water at home on April 28th, at 7 lb, 6.5 oz. He was eagerly welcomed earthside by his big brother MaiTai with a special cord burning ceremony.

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