Jaundice In Babies – Causes & Treatment

Jaundice In Babies – Causes & Treatment

Jaundice In Babies – Why Is My Baby Yellow?

 

Jaundice is a yellow pigment of the skin and the whites of the eyes. It is caused by excessive bilirubin, a product of the breakdown of red blood cells. Bilirubin is usually processed through the liver and peed or pooped out of the body. Newborn babies have not yet fully developed this breakdown and can develop jaundice.

 

 More than 50% of newborns develop jaundice in the newborn period, and only about 2% will have dangerously high levels

 

We normally notice jaundice in babies first in the whites of babies’ eyes. As the bilirubin level rises, we see the yellow moving down the body from the head to the toes. Usually, jaundice appears within the first 24 hours of life, peaking at 3 to 5 days. Then it decreases over the next two weeks. More than 50% of newborns develop jaundice in the newborn period, and only about 2% will have dangerously high levels. If bilirubin is too high it can be toxic to the brain.

 

If your newborn has developed jaundice in the first 24 hours of life, is not feeding well, is not peeing or stooling enough, has fever or lethargy, the baby should be seen by a physician immediately.

 

When do we worry about jaundice?

All babies should be seen by the physician in the first 24 hours of life and reassessed by day 3. Breast-feeding support is helpful to ensure adequate feeding, as this can decrease the risk of jaundice. However if your newborn has developed jaundice in the first 24 hours of life, is not feeding well, is not peeing or stooling enough, has fever or lethargy, the baby should be seen by a physician immediately.

 

Breast milk jaundice develops by 2-3 weeks of age and can persist for up to three months

 

What causes jaundice?

Most babies develop uncomplicated jaundice due to relative dehydration after birth. This is called breastfeeding jaundice. As mom’s milk comes in, baby usually gets more milk and jaundice fades. Alternatively, Breast milk jaundice develops by 2-3 weeks of age and can persist for up to three months. Breast-feeding these babies is not harmful, and as long as the baby is gaining weight and behaving normally breast-feeding can continue.

 

Risk factors for jaundice include prematurity, mother with an O type blood group, Asian ethnicity, having a sibling who had jaundice or having a bruise on the scalp from birth called cephalohematoma.

 

 The Canadian Pediatric Society and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all babies be assessed within the first three days of life with a blood test or a trans cutaneous measurement of the bilirubin level.

 

Testing

The Canadian Pediatric Society and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all babies be assessed within the first three days of life with a blood test or a trans cutaneous measurement of the bilirubin level. Your healthcare practitioner will then decide if the bilirubin level is too high and which treatment is necessary.

 

 

Most jaundice babies do not require any treatment. Typically jaundice will self-resolve if baby is feeding well, and voiding and stooling adequately.

 

Treatment

Most jaundice babies do not require any treatment. Typically jaundice will self-resolve if baby is feeding well, and voiding and stooling adequately.

 

If the bilirubin level is excessive, some babies will require special lights called phototherapy lights to decrease the bilirubin level. A small number of children will require a blood transfusion if the level is very high or not responding to phototherapy.  Adequate hydration at this point with breast-feeding, formula feeding, or intravenous fluids is important.

 

Rest assured that if jaundice is detected and treated early, the vast majority of babies will thrive and develop normally.

 

Check out this link to read more about how to get off to the best start with breastfeeding.

And to read more about how to store breast milk 

Dina M. Kulik, MD, FRCPC, PEM

About Dina M. Kulik, MD, FRCPC, PEM

Dina is a wife, mother of 4, and adrenaline junky. She loves to share children’s health information from her professional and personal experience. More About Dr Dina.

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