There are many misconceptions linked to jaundice, especially in Malaysia. Here are clarifications to some of the widely-believed jaundice myths.
MYTH 1: Feeding baby with water, grape or water chestnut juice.
A newborn baby’s gut is sterile and immature hence dependent on breast milk which is easily digestible. Breast milk also repopulates the gut with good bacteria; probiotics. Giving juices and other foreign substances will lead to infection of the gut which can be fatal.
Water on the other hand has absolutely no nutritional value. A baby’s small stomach can get full easily with water thus refusing milk. Furthermore, excessive intake of water can also cause water intoxication, sudden low sodium levels resulting in seizures, brain damage and death. To date, nobody really knows how much of water is too much for a baby (< 6 months)
Most newborns with jaundice can continue breastfeeding. More frequent breastfeeding can improve the mother’s milk supply and, in turn, improve caloric intake and hydration of the infant, thus reducing the elevated bilirubin.
MYTH 2: Jaundice can be treated by sunlight exposure is partly true.
Sunlight do contain blue wavelengths which are also utilised in phototherapy machines to reduce jaundice. However, it also contains harmful UV and infrared rays that can cause a baby to overheat thus leading to dehydration. Direct UV rays exposure to a baby’s sensitive skin can result in sunburn and eye damage. However, exposing a baby to indirect sunlight e.g sunlight through a window might help lower the jaundice level.
MYTH 3: Drinking fresh goat’s milk can lower risk of jaundice.
Intake of contaminated unpasteurised milk can lead to a bacterial infection called brucellosis. Brucellosis in pregnant mothers can lead to spontaneous abortion, fetal death or infect the unborn fetus. This bacteria can also be passed from an infected mother to child through breastfeeding.
Feeding goat’s milk is not a solution
MYTH 4: Bathing a baby in special baths can reduce jaundice.
Baths made up of tamarind (asam jawa), chives (daun kucai), rose, bitter gourd, tea will do nothing except make your baby smell weird. Our skin is an impenetrable barrier. Bathing in soybean will not make my skin fairer. The same logic applies here.
These are the 4 myths out of many debunked. Before embarking in other home remedies, do discuss with your doctor first.
Dr. JoAnn Rajah is a child specialist that provides pediatric care to baby and children in Selangor and KL. Her core strength lies in diagnosing early signs of child health issues and guiding parents on how to manage them.