Newborn jaundice is a common problem in babies, and for most, it’s easily curable. However, there are also a lot of things that a mother can eat while she’s pregnant and while breastfeeding to help prevent jaundice before it occurs.
If your newborn baby starts to show jaundice symptoms, having a healthy diet for both mother and baby can help cure it.
Remember, lots of the vitamins and minerals that a mother eats are also consumed by the baby through breast milk, so maintaining that diet for as long as possible will help them stay healthy too.
How To Recognize Jaundice
The most recognizable sign of jaundice is a yellowish tint to your baby’s skin and the whites of their eyes.
This is because they have too much bilirubin in their bloodstream. This is a substance that is usually filtered out by the liver when the body breaks down old red blood cells.
Jaundice will start to show in the face and eyes and gradually spread down the arms, chest, and legs. The further down the body the yellowish color spreads, the more serious it is.
If your baby has a nasty case of jaundice, they will also show as having a fever, may lose their appetite, and might not pee or poop very often – meaning the body isn’t processing food through the liver very quickly.
What Causes Baby Jaundice?
Jaundice in babies is relatively common as the red blood cell breakdown is a normal bodily function. However, a baby’s underdeveloped liver can’t process the breakdown as quickly.
You’ll start to notice the signs of jaundice when the bilirubin levels reach 2 milliliters per deciliter.
The conditions typically last around 7-10 days but can go on for weeks if it’s not managed correctly. The more prolonged jaundice is, the weaker your baby’s liver is becoming, and it can hinder their development, so it’s vital that you do everything you can to prevent this.
The Two Main Types Of Baby Jaundice
- Physiological Jaundice
This is a natural process developed because your baby’s liver isn’t developed far enough to process bilirubin in the blood cells. This will typically go away gradually on its own as your baby develops.
- Neonatal Jaundice
This is when the fetus’ blood cells aren’t compatible with the mother’s body and the mother will form antibodies that attack the fetus’ cells. This causes a breakdown of the cells, increasing the amount of bilirubin.
This type of jaundice is also incredibly common if the mother has diabetes while pregnant.
What Should A Mother Eat When Her Baby Has Jaundice
There are several foods that you can eat during pregnancy which can help prevent neonatal jaundice later on.
Foods like cereal which are high in fiber, help the food to breakdown and remove toxins. This makes the breast milk purer.
Cereals also contain whole grains, which are high in beta-glucan. Research has shown that a bowl of whole-grain cereal per day drastically improves liver functionality after 12 weeks.
It would help if you tried to make your daily bowl a habit as early as you can in the pregnancy.
Vegetables that are high in vitamins A and C and high in fiber are great for your unborn baby. Certain leafy greens and herbs are also good for improving your metabolism and detoxifying your liver.
If you used to be a big drinker or had an unhealthy diet before your pregnancy, certain vegetables can help you return your liver to the best of health, giving your unborn baby a better chance of avoiding jaundice.
Citrus fruits, in moderation, provide antioxidants which are perfect for a detox. If you add a few slices of lemon to your water, it will help improve your baby’s immune system, making their cells stronger.
Papaya or mango are also excellent fruit choices as they contain lots of digestive enzymes which eases the flow of digestion through the liver and helps combat any bacteria.
Berries such as cranberries, blackberries, or blueberries are rich in fiber, which helps break down food through the liver and intestinal tract.
The easier your body breaks food down, the more vitamins you absorb, which benefit your baby.
Coconuts are also the perfect source of amino acid which help with liver regeneration and development. Try to use coconut milk rather than cows’ milk while you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
Make sure you drink lots of fluids while you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. The more you drink, the easier it is for your body to process old cells and retain better liver functionality.
This ensures that you don’t pass the bilirubin down to your baby, helping their liver to develop as fast as possible.
Try to drink around 2 liters of water per day if possible. However, you shouldn’t give water to your baby. Keep them hydrated with breast milk only.
What Should A Mother NOT Eat When Her Baby Has Jaundice
If your baby has jaundice and is breastfeeding, there are a few food groups that you absolutely need to avoid.
This is an obvious one. Our own livers don’t process alcohol well at all. Too much alcohol can cause permanent liver damage.
Drinking alcohol while you’re pregnant or breastfeeding can seriously harm your baby – not just causing jaundice, but other long-term liver issues too.
You should avoid salty food. Junk food like kebabs, processed meat, or spicy sauces contain lots of salt, affecting the taste of your milk and can be bad for the liver.
Believe it or not, white bread and pasta contain lots of refined sugar, which can actually contribute to conditions such as type 2 diabetes and are considered to cause difficulties in young children’s liver development.
Switch to brown bread and whole-grain pasta throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding.
High Sugar Drinks
Sugar is difficult to digest, meaning the liver needs to work harder when you have a sweet tooth.
Giving excessive sugar to your baby through your milk or from your body while you’re pregnant could increase the chances of your baby developing jaundice just because the liver is having to work harder.
Try to avoid fruit juices. Although fruits are good for you and your baby, most juices contain many additives and sugar substitutes that could actually work against the liver function.
Raw Fish Or Undercooked Meat
While it’s usually acceptable to eat sushi or a rare steak for adults, these foods can contain bacteria and parasites that attack the liver. The fully developed liver of an adult can usually handle this.
However, if those bacteria pass to your unborn child, it could cause liver development issues from the beginning, possibly causing jaundice from birth.
Can A Mother Eat Eggs If Her Baby Has Jaundice?
Pregnant women or new mothers can eat chicken eggs during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
It’s a myth that you shouldn’t eat eggs if you’re pregnant, which stems from the fact that they’re high in cholesterol.
And it’s correct that high cholesterol levels in the blood can cause issues with fatty liver syndrome, hindering a person’s ability to process food correctly.
However, the cholesterol you eat doesn’t necessarily affect your bloodstream’s cholesterol levels, so it’s unlikely to pass to your baby.
While it’s advisable to cook your eggs thoroughly during pregnancy, this is due to the bacteria that raw eggs may carry, which will attack the liver and may affect your baby.
What Vegetables Are Good For Jaundice In Babies?
The trick to improving jaundice’s effects, or avoiding them altogether, comes down to a simple diet rich in fiber, fluids, and vitamins.
You need to help pack all those vitamins into your baby’s digestive system while they grow to aid proper liver functionality.
Vegetables that are high in fiber and digestive enzymes really help your baby’s development. Try:
Other Ways To Get Rid Of Baby Jaundice
The UV rays coming from the sun can help reduce the bilirubin levels in the blood and help to relieve jaundice. Ensure you don’t place them in direct sunlight, but an hour or so outside will help.
If your baby has a different blood type to you, an intravenous drip may be employed to add blood protein to slow the breakdown of cells.
Feeding your baby breast milk more often is a great way to get the liver to develop more quickly. It’s a good idea to make feeding time more regular to get that function moving more effectively.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding a small amount 8-12 times per day. If you’re struggling to get your baby to drink from the breast, try to feed breast milk from a bottle instead.
Overall, newborn jaundice is quite normal. However, you should do your best to have a healthy diet throughout your pregnancy.
Eating foods that are high in fiber, vitamins, and digestive enzymes will give your baby the best chance of avoiding jaundice when they’re born.
If you’re choosing to breastfeed your baby, make sure you feed them as early after the birth as possible and continue to breastfeed as often as you can.
The nutrients in your breast milk will help their liver to develop faster and stabilize the bilirubin in their system.
If your baby’s jaundice lasts for more than ten days, take them to the doctor for a checkup.