Newborn Jaundice is a common condition in infants. It occurs when there is excess bilirubin in the blood and causes the skin and the whites of the eyes to turn yellow. Bilirubin is a normal pigment produced by the breakdown of red blood cells in the body. It usually passes through the liver and is then excreted in the baby's stool. But when a baby has jaundice, it means that there is too much bilirubin in the blood. This may be because the baby's developing liver is not yet able to remove the bilirubin from the blood or perhaps the bilirubin is too much for the baby's liver to handle.
Types of Jaundice
There are several types of newborn jaundice:
- Physiological jaundice: occurs due to the slow-developing liver. It appears during the first 2 to 4 days of the infant's life and disappears after 1 to 2 weeks.
- Jaundice of prematurity: occurs in premature babies since it takes longer for them to excrete bilirubin.
- Breast milk jaundice: occurs in babies who have been breastfed. It is caused by some properties in the mother's milk, which makes the bilirubin level to rise above 20 mg. It appears during the first 4 to 7 days of baby's life.
- Blood group incompatibility: If the blood type of the mother and the baby do not match, then the mother might produce antibodies which may kill the infant's red blood cells causing the bilirubin in the blood to rise. This usually occurs during the first day of life. This problem can be treated by an injection of Rh immune globulin to the mother. It is given 72 hours after the delivery to prevent her from producing antibodies, which may endanger her baby.
You should seek treatment immediately if you see severe signs or high levels of jaundice in your baby during the first days of life. If your baby develops a fever over 100 degrees Fahrenheit or if your child looks sick or if you baby is not gaining weight, take him or her to the doctor right away. If the jaundice does not clear up, phototherapy may be required. Phototherapy treats your baby's jaundice with a light and helps get rid of the bilirubin in the body.
However in mild cases, treatment is not really necessary. Frequent feedings of milk may help get rid of the bilirubin faster.