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What To Do If Your Newborn Has Jaundice?

By Michelle Higgins

Don't panic if your doctor tells you that your newborn baby has jaundice. Jaundice in a newborn baby is a common condition.

Most newborns have normal physiological jaundice and in very rare cases is the jaundice due to serious liver disorders.

Why my baby?

The blood cells in your baby's body are broken up into a yellow pigment called bilirubin. The level of bilirubin needs to be kept normal by the liver and kidneys by excreting it in the baby's poop. But the liver of a newborn baby is not very mature. So bilirubin levels rise in the blood causing yellow pigmentation of the skin.

More than 90% of newborn babies are affected by normal physiological jaundice. So relax. This type of jaundice is seen usually on second or third day of the baby's life and disappears by the 7th or 10th day.

How to tell if your baby has jaundice

Yellow discoloration of the skin and the white of the eye is the key symptom of jaundice. Your baby may also be sleepier than usual. This could be normal physiological jaundice especially when it appears 3-4 days after birth.

Monitor your baby after 1 or 2 days of his birth. You can diagnose jaundice in the newborn baby by doing a very simple test. Press your fingertip against your baby's forehead or nose tip. If it appears white, you have nothing to worry about. If a yellowish color appears, it is time to call your doctor. A blood test might be needed to confirm that there are no specific causes for the jaundice.

More on jaundice in the newborn

Normal physiological jaundice does not affect baby's general health.

Breast milk can also produce jaundice in a few babies. However, the pros of breastfeeding outweigh the condition and you will probably be advised continue breastfeeding.

Premature babies are more prone to developing jaundice. Blood group incompatibility between you and your child can also produce jaundice.

When jaundice is a cause for alarm

If jaundice appears within 24 hours of birth and persists for more than 14 days, it could be pathological jaundice due to a liver condition. Other pointers include baby's refusal to feed, dark yellow urine, pale or clay colored poop and a weak and irritable baby. Call your doctor immediately if you detect any of these warning signs.

How your baby will be treated

Normal physiological jaundice in your newborn does not require any special treatment. Adequate fluid intake is essential. Breast feed your baby at least 8-12 times a day.

A mini sunbath might be recommended. You may be asked to put your baby's crib near the window that gets the maximum sunlight. Make sure you protect baby's eyes and limit exposure to direct sunlight. Follow the instructions from your caregiver.

In case of severe jaundice, phototherapy or bililight therapy will be used. Your baby will be exposed to artificial light, which can decrease the bilirubin levels.

Most newborn babies have jaundice. In some, it so mild that it goes unnoticed and in some babies it may worsen to produce symptoms.

Detecting the symptoms early does help. So do keep a close watch on baby (as if you need telling). If your newborn is diagnosed with jaundice, you now know what to do.


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