Breast-feeding, neonatal jaundice and kernicterus

Glenn R. Gourley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


Despite the many advantages of breast-feeding, there is ample documentation of the strong association between breast-feeding and an increase in the risk of neonatal hyperbilirubinaemia. Breast-fed infants have higher bilirubin levels than formula-fed infants. Suggested mechanisms for these findings include poor fluid and caloric intake, inhibition of hepatic excretion of bilirubin, and intestinal absorption of bilirubin (enterohepatic circulation). On rare occasions, breast-fed infants without evidence of haemolysis have developed extreme hyperbilirubinaemia and kernicterus. Because almost all of the cases of kernicterus reported in the last 15 years have occurred in fully or partially breast-fed newborns, it is important that these infants be followed closely. Appropriate support and advice must be provided to the lactating mother so that successful breast-feeding can be established and the risk of severe hyperbilirubinaemia reduced.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)135-141
Number of pages7
JournalSeminars in Neonatology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2002


  • Bilirubin
  • Breast-feeding
  • Infant nutrition
  • Kemicterus
  • Neonatal jaundice
  • β-glucuronidase


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