Objectives. Neonatal jaundice is a greater problem for infants fed breast milk, compared with formula. This study tested the hypotheses that feeding breastfed newborns β-glucuronidase inhibitors during the first week after birth would increase fecal bilirubin excretion and would reduce jaundice without affecting breastfeeding deleteriously.
Methods. Sixty-four breastfed newborns were randomized to 4 groups, ie, control or receiving 6 doses per day (5 mL per dose) of l-aspartic acid, enzymatically hydrolyzed casein (EHC), or whey/casein (W/C) for the first week. l-Aspartic acid and EHC inhibit β-glucuronidase. Transcutaneous bilirubin levels (primary outcome) were measured daily (Jaundice Meter [Minolta/Air Shields, Hatboro, PA] and Bilicheck [Respironics, Pittsburgh, PA]). All stools were collected, and fecal bile pigments, including bilirubin diglucuronide, bilirubin monoglucuronides, and bilirubin, were analyzed with high-performance liquid chromatography. Follow-up assessments included day 7 body weight, day 6/7 prebreastfeeding/postbreastfeeding weights, maternal ratings, and ages at formula introduction and breastfeeding cessation.
Results. The groups were comparable at entry. Overall, the l-aspartic acid, EHC, and W/C groups had significantly lower transcutaneous bilirubin levels than did the control group (75.8%, 69.6%, and 69.2%, respectively, of the control mean, 8.53 mg/dL, at the bilirubin peak on day 4). The l-aspartic acid, EHC, and W/C groups had significantly lower transcutaneous bilirubin levels on days 3 to 7. Fecal bile pigment excretion was greatest in the l-aspartic acid group, significantly greater than control values. There were no significant differences in dosages, follow-up measurements, and maternal ratings.
Conclusions. Use of minimal aliquots of l-aspartic acid and EHC for β-glucuronidase inhibition results in increased fecal bilirubin excretion and less jaundice, without disruption of the breastfeeding experience. Decreased jaundice in the W/C group, which lacked a β-glucuronidase inhibitor, suggests a different mechanism.