It is quite normal for a newborn to develop jaundice. Usually, there is no need for treatment, unless the condition is quite serious.
What is Newborn Jaundice?
Newborn jaundice is the yellow tinge of the skin and eyes. Again, it is quite common. Jaundice occurs in 60% of healthy newborns and 80% of premature babies.
What Causes Infant Jaundice?
Jaundice is caused by excess amounts of bilirubin. Bilirubin is a byproduct of the breakdown of red blood cells by the liver. Bilirubin has a yellow tinge and is removed from the blood by the liver; it leaves the body through stool. When too much bilirubin is produced, the liver can't process the bilirubin quickly enough, and the yellow tinge of bilirubin in the blood stream taints the skin and eyes of your newborn. Jaundice is quite common because a newborn's liver is immature and therefore usually does not process bilirubin quickly enough. This is coupled with the fact that newborns produce a lot of red blood cells, which means more byproduct (bilirubin) is produced.
Symptoms of Jaundice
The foremost symptom of jaundice is the yellowing of the skin and eyes. It is also sometimes accompanied by lethargy and poor feeding.
Are you having a hard time identifying the color of your baby's skin? How can you tell if your newborn has jaundice? Simply use your finger to press the tip of your newborn's nose. If your baby has dark skin, then check the color of his gums and eyes. If the skin turns white, your newborn doesn't have jaundice. However, if the skin turns yellow, your newborn has jaundice. In particular, this form of jaundice is called physiologic jaundice.
Remember not to worry as most jaundice usually resolves itself within 1-2 weeks and doesn't need treatment. It is however important to contact your doctor to ascertain whether your baby has safe levels of bilirubin or whether your baby requires treatment.
Babies that are exclusively breastfeed usually have a higher incidence of jaundice than formula fed infants. Breastfeeding jaundice occurs in 5-10% of newborns.
Nowadays, many women are opting to breastfeed their infant because breastfeeding is considered best for mother and baby.
Many practitioners were educated at a time when formula was pushed. If your baby has breastfeeding jaundice, some physicians may advise you to stop breastfeeding for a few days. However, his practice has been found to be ineffective. Breastfeeding helps deplete excess bilirubin by causing the newborn to poop more often.
Treatment of Jaundice
It's always important to take your infant to the doctor if you suspect jaundice, even though most cases resolve themselves within one to two weeks. Some cases, however, need treatment to improve the condition. The treatment usually offered is phototherapy, or exposing your newborn to lights. Phototherapy works because ultraviolet light enhances your liver's ability to process bilirubin.
There are two common phototherapy treatments. Your baby may either lie in a bassinet completely naked except for a face mask under 'bililights' or he will be wrapped in a fiber optic blanket called a 'biliblanket' or 'bilipad.' Your doctor may give you a prescription that enables you to rent a 'biliblanket' for home use.
Even if your baby doesn't require phototherapy, you can help your infant's jaundice resolve more quickly by taking him out into the sunlight. To avoid sunburn, try taking your baby out before noon and then again later in the afternoon.