24 Apr

Glow Worm

Posted by Jenna, Under baby

Due to a very low milk supply, I came dangerously close to starving this poor kid, causing his pediatrican to prescribe the use of a biliblanket to treat his jaundice (his levels were at a 17).  Jaundice is the buildup of bilirubin, and if levels get too high babies can experience deafness, delayed development, or even cerebral palsy. Babies who have it will start to look orange and the whites of their eyes will turn yellow. Treatment can look like this when done in the hospital, but we were lucky to treat at home under a little blanket that wraps around his belly, which means no face mask, no leaving him alone in a bed, and holding him while the lights sucked the orange/yellow color out of his system.

Now that we are a bit wiser we will know what to look for with our next baby. Orange skin? Screaming for hours and hours when I’m trying to exclusively breastfeed? It’s likely that baby isn’t getting enough to eat and we need to come up with a new feeding solution.

He is a pretty cute little glow worm though, isn’t he?

23 Comments


  1. I didn’t have problems with milk supply this 2nd time around with Kyle, but he just wasn’t latching on correctly enough to be getting enough. I had a feeling that we weren’t quite gettting it after going home, so we went to a nursing class just a few days after we got home. They weighed him and realized he lost 15% of his weight (I think they said around 8-10 was the most it should be for most babies) so we realized he wasn’t getting enough from me. I started pumping, supplementing with formula, and started using a breastshield because I learned that apprarently I have fairly flat nipples (TMI, I know!). I ended up using that shield for the rest of the 6 months I nursed.

    I was so very frustrated this time! It was tons easier when I exclusively pumped with Grant. I think I’m just a much better pumper. I’ve also had many friends that for some reason couldn’t nurse well with one baby, but with other children that came along it went perfectly, so I stopped beating myself up over it. Your well being as well as babies is important.

    I was told conflicting things about upping milk supply – one consultant said to greatly increase fluids, the other said to increase calories from food. But truly, it sounds like ‘magic’, but trying to be calm and relaxed also helps a great deal.

    I want you to feel supported and happy with your decision either way. If you get to exclusively nurse soon, great. If you supplement and do both, great. If you must switch to only formula, that is great too. There are trade-offs and pros/cons to every choice. I planned to nurse for a year, but that was before realtiy reared it’s ugly head. I fully support breastfeeding and feel that is the best thing you can do for baby, but if it comes at too high a price (too much stress, too much anxiety, etc) then you must re-evaluate your expectations. I know you are not someone that gives up easily or that throws in the towel at the sign of the first problem, so you should have complete confidence in yourself that if you must change your plans, it is because it is best for you and for baby – I support you no matter what happens and I’ll roundhouse kick to the face anyone that makes you feel any different!

    And YES, he’s a precious glowworm! I’m so glad they let you do all this therapy at home because I know fully well that hospitals suck. (pardon the french!:)

    Jenna Reply:

    I’m hoping things are going to be better with baby #2? Either way I’m at peace with the way things are going. The smile on his face when he has a full belly is worth more to me than suffering through a hungry starving child.

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  2. Ah! Now I understand the blue light. Love your little glow worm! :)

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  3. He really is wonderful!

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  4. At how many hours after delivery was the level 17? Our hospital uses the biliblankets, too! They’re cool.

    I also love the story of how they learned to treat the disorder… Around 1958 a head nurse tending jaundiced newborn babies in an English hospital noted that children next to windows recovered sooner than those against the walls. The rest is treatment history! :)

    Jenna Reply:

    We didn’t take him into the pediatrician until Friday at like 11:00 am and he was born on Monday at 2:40 pm. For him it was the combination of the biliblanket and pumping formula down him like made to make up for all of the weight he had lost.

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  5. Glad you guys figured it out. :) He looks so precious!

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  6. It’s definitely great to be able to do it at home. It seems jaundice is fairly common with babies unless I’m mistaken. Do they think it’s link to not feeding enough or is it unrelated?

    Jenna Reply:

    Not necessarily related to the frequency of feedings, more to the volume of food that the child is getting I think.

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  7. At the hospital I work at, we treat with frequent feedings. The bilirubin is broke down and excreted through the stool. So more frequent feedings help the baby stool more. Jaundice is usually from a immature liver.

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  8. You should really read Damommas blog. Although it turned out that other health problems caused her weight loss, but low milk supply was one problem. She fought and fought and continued to exclusively breastfeed. its inspiring. it might help.

    Her daughter also had one of those.

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  9. Try drinking fennel tea to up milk supply. Just steep fennel seeds from the grocery store in boiling water for several mins and drink several mugs throught the day. Fennel will also help the baby with gas. Also drink lots of water and eat, actually more calories that when you were preggo. I have been nursing for 15 months now.

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  10. So glad that you guys have a good system going. Feeding babies can be so frustrating when it goes against what we originally wanted to do! When it comes down to it, what works best for baby is the best way to go, and it sounds like you agree. When I accepted that with Eli, we all became so much happier and life was grand :). Eli was a little jaundiced as well, and as others commented–frequent feedings for frequent pooping helped a lot!

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  11. I almost went through this exact same thing with my baby (who’s now six months). It took my milk about a week and a half before it came in enough. I would breastfeed and then we would give him formula as well so he had enough to eat. I had said I refused to do formula but my poor baby was starving!!! But all was well after a week or so, but he had a level of like 19 (for jaundice) but a few days later he was back down to a normal level.
    i know how stressful that can be. I just cried and cried but eventually it got better!

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  12. I love those pictures. So peaceful.

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  13. These pictures make me want a baby!

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  14. how is jaunduce connected to him not eating? Is it because with nothing going “in”….all the yuck can’t get pushed “out”?

    Katherine (a.k.a. Sparkles) Reply:

    Hyperbilirubinemia (jaundice) is related to several factors. More commonly in the first few days of neonatal life is physiologic jaundice. This is related to several factors including breastfeeding. Breastfeeding influences the incidence of jaundice in two ways. When a term infant attempts to nurse in the first few days of life colustrum is milk deficient. The infant receives less calories which is necessary for stimulating enterohepatic circulation. The second factor for jaundice initially after birth is related to the immaturity of the newborn liver–> Normally, bilirubin results from the breakdown of hemoglobin. Heme is further broken down releasing iron, carbon monoxide, and biliverdin. Biliverdin is then reduced to bilirubin. Bilirubin is modified into a conjugated form in the liver in order to be excreted into the intestines where it is deconjugated by bacteria and bilirubin is reabsorbed into circulation. In the newborn, conjugated bilirubin in the intestine is converted back to unconjugated bilirubin. The unconjugated bilirubin is reabsorbed into the bloodstream, increasing the bilirubin level. In comparison, adults metabolize bilirubin and excrete bilirubin more efficiently since conjugated bilirubin is not reabsorbed into circulation due to colonic bacteria further breaking down bilirubin to urobilinogens and succeed in excretion.
    Another pathologic cause of jaundice includes maternal ABO and Rh incompatibility…
    But other more serious reasons of neonatal jaundice include biliary atresia, a congenital malformation which may be related to either the absence or destruction of intra or extrahepatic bile ducts.

    Phototherapy reduces bilirubin levels in a number of ways. Light energy modifies the structure and shape of bilirubin enabling it to be excreted in the urine. Light therapy further converts bilirubin into photoisomers and oxidation products that do not require hepatic conjugation for excretion

    Usually, bilirubin (bili) levels are drawn the during the first 24 hours of life in order for a comparison level outpatient should the child experience jaundice- but it’s particularly prevalent in breastfeeding babies…..

    It’s kind of a long winded explanation, but more than several people asked. I had to do a talk on it, hopefully this is a ‘watered down version’ explanation to help people kinda ‘get it’.

    Frankly, it’s fairly common- and no one should be hard on themselves for it happening to their baby. It’s just something that needs to be followed closely so the levels don’t get too high.

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  15. and mean Jaundice

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  16. Ugh… If you go to our blog and read “The Delivery” they had us go home and use the Bili Lights. It was awful. I cried and cried. The lights made him lethargic and he wouldn’t eat. I am SO glad it’s overwith!

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  17. Did your milk ever come in? And if so, is it enough to soley breastfeed now or is he exclusively formula fed. Either way, you know now for your future children. He IS a cute little glow worm. :)

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  18. It’s amazing how much you learn just after a couple of days isn’t it!? Have you had an increase in milk production? How’s it going now? Kira’s little one, Doug had to be a glow worm for a couple days, and I thought he was cute, as is T1 :)

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  19. Katy W says:

    Hey this may be old news now a week later, but all my babes had jaundice. (only our first was a glow worm). I was able to nurse all my girls so don’t give up (unless you want too). I would nurse on both sides and then give formula afterwards for every feeding. My supply built up and my babies got fat. Then I was able to stop with the formula.

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      I'm a farm-raised almost-crunchy stroller-pushing picture-taking lifestyle-blog-writing gastronomy-obsessed divine-seeking thrift-store-combing cheese-inhaling pavement-pounding laughter-sprinkling lover of individuality and taking chances.
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