A consultant paediatrician has debunked the belief that putting breast milk in the eyes of babies with jaundice would cure the disease.

Dr Funmi Adesokan, Consultant Paediatrician, Osun State University Teaching Hospital, made the clarification in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), on Friday in Osogbo.

Adesokan explained that jaundice was caused by the uncontrolled breaking down of red blood cells, which causes bilirubin (a yellow pigment or colour) produced in the liver.

“Jaundice is a yellowish discoloration of the eyes, skin, and mucus membranes. When red cells are broken down, bilirubin is produced, which undergoes further metabolism in the liver and is excreted in stool.

“Understanding this process, we can see that putting breast milk in the eyes cannot alter this and it is not effective in clearing jaundice.

“Pawpaw water and other herbal concoctions have also not been proven to treat jaundice,” she said.

Furthermore, the paediatrician described the type of light the babies were put under.

“It is true that babies with jaundice are put under a light called phototherapy to treat jaundice.

“Putting a baby in sunlight cannot achieve the same result, as a specific wavelength of light is required for effectiveness and you need the skin of the baby exposed to light.

“It will be harmful to keep a baby outside, unclothed, to receive sunlight. It is also required to be a continuous exposure, so a few minutes of exposure would not achieve that.”

She further said the causes of jaundice could be due to blood group incompatibility, enzyme shortage, infections, liver abnormalities, and not enough breastfeeding.

Other causes include exposure to substances like camphor, menthol-containing products, sulphur, talc, naphthalene, among other unhealthy items for babies.

Moreover, she said that six out of 10 babies would have a type of jaundice.

“What is called physiologic jaundice. This jaundice is mild and does not require treatment, but there is another type (pathologic jaundice) which is harmful and damages the brain.

“This type leads to delayed development, cerebral palsy, deafness, seizures and other problems.”

She, however, said the baby needed to be taken to the hospital to determine the type, cause, and severity of the jaundice for the required treatment.

Adesokan added that mothers whose babies had jaundice be brought to the hospital, and also suggested that mothers breastfeed babies on demand at two to three hours intervals.

She also advised that mothers go for antenatal care and take advantage of health insurance schemes.

“Antenatal care (ANC) is important for pregnant women, to ensure safe pregnancy and delivery of healthy babies.

“Yes, it may be expensive and inaccessible for some, but most government primary health care centres run ANC at little cost.

“Mothers need to understand the importance of the ANC and attend to them.”

Breast milk not a cure for jaundice – Paediatrician

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