My Breastfed Toddler's Skin has Turned Orangey-Yellow! Is it my Milk?
Most likely, your toddler is experiencing carotenemia, a condition most often found in babies and toddlers, where skin, especially parts that tend to sweat a lot, becomes tinged with orange. It is most visible in babies and toddlers with light complexions. The condition is caused by ingesting a large amount of carotene, a nutrient most often found in human milk, carrots, squash, sweet potato, pumpkin, spinach, beans, egg yolks, corn and yams. Note that most of the foods listed fall into the "yellow vegetable" category. Cooking, mashing, or pureeing foods increases absorption of carotene (Leung, Alexander. Carotenemia. Advances in Pediatrics. 34: 223-248. 1987). Human milk is also full of carotene, and can even become yellowish or orange if a mother eats a diet high in the foods listed above (See our FAQ on "What's making my milk that strange color?").
The good news is that carotenemia is nearly always a harmless condition (there are some rare diseases that also cause the condition, so if your child is showing signs of illness, you may wish to consult a health care practitioner). Carotenemia is not associated with Vitamin A poisoning, even though carotene is converted to Vitamin A during the digestive process, because the conversion is slow.
The easiest way to avoid this issue is to follow La Leche League's standard dietary advice for both mother and child to eat a wide variety of foods in as close to their natural state as possible. Sometimes toddlers go through "phases" of only liking one type of food, such as carrots, which might lead to carotenemia. As long as the toddler is also breastfeeding, which means getting complete nutrition, these phases can be tolerated in moderation. Continuing to offer enticing, yet nutritious alternatives will usually result in moving on to a new favorite taste in a short time. The WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING has helpful information on introducing new foods and encouraging healthy eating habits.
On the LLLI Web site:
- A collection of articles from NEW BEGINNINGS about nutrition and dietary issues: http://www.lalecheleague.org/NB/NBnutrition.html
- A review of The Family Nutrition Book: http://www.lalecheleague.org/llleaderweb/LV/LVAugSep00p80.html
From the LLLI Online Store or your local LLL Group Library:
- Healthy Snacks for Kids, by Penny Warner: This revised edition of Penny Warner's popular guide to helping children develop healthy eating habits gives a nutritional analysis of each recipe and tells how each fits into the "food pyramid." Recipes are high in nutrition, easy to prepare, low in sugar and salt, and fun to eat!
- The Family Nutrition Book, by Martha and William Sears: covers preparing and eating foods that are nutritious for the whole family, as well as breastfeeding, starting solids, and an anti-cancer diet. The authors also show readers how to interpret nutritional labels. This book answers nutrition questions and includes many fun ideas that families can use to promote family nutrition and raise healthy children.
- Whole Foods for Babies and Toddlers, by Margaret Kenda: From the author of The Natural Baby Food Cookbook, this comprehensive introduction into the world of whole foods for little ones will give you the knowledge to help encourage healthy eating habits for all ages. Contains updated information on the inferiority of processed and pre-packaged foods and the profound superiority of whole foods nutrition. With recipes that can be used for the whole family, this book will encourage a lifelong commitment to healthy eating.
- WHOLE FOODS FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY, by Roberta Johnson. Second Edition. Our classic LLL cookbook has been given an all new look, with larger pages, and a complete nutritional analysis for each recipe. It contains more than 900 kitchen-tested recipes contributed by mothers all over the world. This book is filled with time-saving make-ahead meals, ideas for using leftovers, special diet and allergy recipes, and more! Recipes include meat and meatless main dishes, ethnic foods, whole grain breads, desserts, snacks, and sandwiches.
- MY CHILD WON'T EAT! by Carlos González, MD: Parents everywhere worry when their baby or toddler doesn't seem to eat as much as they think he should. Carlos González, a pediatrician and father, sets those fears to rest as he explores the reasons why a child refuses food, the pitfalls of growth charts, and the ways that growth and activity affect a child's caloric needs. He reassures parents that children know how much they need to eat and it's the parents' job to provide healthful food choices. Forcing a child to eat more than what he needs can only lead to tears, tantrums, and eventually, obesity.
If you have additional concerns, please contact your local LLL Leader. To find a Group near you, call 1-800-LALECHE, look at our LLL Web Page Index http://www.lalecheleague.org/WebIndex.html or follow the hints in our page on finding a local LLL Leader http://www.lalecheleague.org/leaderinfo.html. If you are unable to find a local Group, you may consider attending one of our on-line LLL meetings at http://www.lalecheleague.org/Chat/chat.html.
For additional information on parenting options, you may want to purchase the comprehensive guidebook from LLLI, THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING. It is offered for sale by most LLL Groups and through the LLLI Online Store.