Yellowing of your baby’s skin two to three days after birth is called jaundice. Jaundice can also occur in normal healthy babies during the first week after birth. About 60% of babies born after 38 weeks of gestation can develop jaundice. It is more common in babies born at the age of eighty or sick. Some babies need treatment for jaundice and often jaundice does not last longer than two weeks. It goes away without treatment.
What causes jaundice?
Jaundice is caused by high levels of the chemical bilirubin in the baby’s body. Continuous red blood cell production and breakdown are common in adults as well as in infants before and after birth. The hemoglobin in red blood cells breaks down into smaller chemicals, including bilirubin. Bilirubin is transferred to the mother’s bloodstream through the placenta during pregnancy before the baby is born. Once the baby is born, the bilirubin removal function must be taken over by the baby’s liver at once and it takes the liver a few days to fully manage this. This can cause the baby to turn yellow due to high bilirubin levels in the blood.
Which babies get Jaundice?
All babies have high bilirubin levels for several days. But perfectly healthy children do not show this. Apparently, it is usually minimal and not a problem situation. Some babies have a large number of bruises at birth, which can cause the damaged red blood cells to break down, causing the bilirubin level in the blood to rise. Also, some breastfed babies have jaundice, which can last for several weeks. This is because a protein in breast milk can cause high levels of bilirubin to show signs of jaundice. But it is not high enough to cause harm. In some infants, especially preterm infants or infants who become ill for some other reason, bilirubin levels are higher. Some babies who have a different blood type than the mother’s blood type can also develop jaundice.
Health problems caused by jaundice
Babies with moderate levels of bilirubin may be a little sleepier than normal and not breastfeed well. Encouraging them to breastfeed helps lower their bilirubin levels.
If the bilirubin level in a baby’s blood is too high, it can damage parts of the brain, including those that affect hearing, vision, and movement control.
Harmful bilirubin levels depend on how mature and healthy the baby is. A healthy well-developed fetus may experience higher bilirubin levels than a sick or premature baby.
In this article, we will find out what jaundice is, the harm it can do to your child, and the causes of jaundice. In the next article, we will learn about the symptoms of jaundice, how to treat them, and what you can do to help.
Tests for jaundice
Since most babies are sent home in the first two days after birth, parents should be on the lookout for signs of jaundice.
Jaundice first appears on the face and head. If the bilirubin level is high it will appear on the body and if it is even higher it will appear on the hands and feet.
A simple test to see this is to gently press your finger into the corner of your baby’s nose or forehead. If the skin is white where you pressed when you lift your finger, there is no jaundice. If there is yellowing, call a doctor.
If a child appears to have jaundice, a blood test can be done to determine the bilirubin level, and treatment depends on the bilirubin level and how healthy the baby is.
Treatment for jaundice
Most babies with jaundice do not need treatment. As the liver matures, bilirubin is broken down into other chemicals that can be excreted through the intestines.
For children with jaundice, there is a treatment called phototherapy or light therapy.
Here, Babies will be placed in a warm blanket.
They cover their eyes with eye shields.
They are kept naked and cared for so that the maximum amount of light falls on their skin. They may need a lot of food while undergoing phototherapy. If breastfeeding, the baby should be breastfed 8-12 times a day for the first few days.
It will encourage you to take care of your child as much as possible.
Blood tests are usually done daily to see if your child still needs phototherapy.
If the bilirubin level is too high, the baby’s blood will be replaced with another blood, perhaps from the mother. This is a very rare occurrence.
Sun exposure is no longer recommended as a treatment for jaundice as it can cause adverse effects and burns.
What you can do about jaundice
If the baby turns yellow, be sure to have the baby examined by a doctor, midwife, or pediatric nurse.
If your baby seems to be sick (for example, undernourished or has a fever), and the baby is starting to show jaundice, it is more important to get the baby tested early.
If your baby is healthy but shows signs of jaundice and is breastfed, it could be maternal jaundice. But if you have this condition, you should seek medical advice because breast milk is more suitable for your baby. The opportunity to stop breastfeeding is very rare.
It may be recommended to place the baby near a window that has indirect light (not direct light from the sun), but this is not a successful phototherapy method.