What is Neonatal Jaundice?
Jaundice in newborns is a common and usually harmless condition in which the skin and eyes of infants appear yellow. It affects roughly 60% of newborns.
It occurs when the blood contains too much bilirubin ( a chemical that red blood cells. release during their normal breakdown process).
Some red blood cells in the body break down every day, releasing bilirubin into the blood. The liver’s job is to filter it out of the bloodstream. While the baby is still in the mother’s womb, her liver clears its bilirubin. After birth, the baby’s liver takes control.
When the baby’s liver can’t break down bilirubin as quickly as the body produces it, it builds up. Because bilirubin is a yellow substance, it turns your baby’s skin and eyes yellow.
Jaundice is more likely to develop in babies who are:
- Born before 37 weeks
- Having difficulty breastfeeding
- Born to a mother with type O or Rh-negative blood
The hue yellow on your baby’s skin and the whites of their eyes are clear signs of jaundice. The face is where it usually begins. The yellow color spreads from the chest and stomach to the legs and arms as bilirubin levels increase in the blood.
Severe jaundice can be an emergency, so visit the hospital right away if:
- Your baby isn’t feeding or their diapers aren’t wet.
- He/she is hard to wake up.
- Your baby’s eyes are moving unusually.
if severe jaundice is left untreated, bilirubin can enter the brain and cause permanent damage. This condition is called kernicterus, a complication that includes:
- Cerebral Palsy
- Vision problems
- Developmental disabilities
- Hearing loss
Newborn Jaundice Prevention
You can’t do much to prevent newborns from getting jaundice. However, ensuring that your baby is well-fed might help speed things up. In the first few days of your baby’s life, aim for 8-12 feedings a day if you’re breastfeeding. Feed 1-2 ounces every 2-3 hours if you’re formula feeding.
1. Mayo Clinic. Neonatal Jaundice. Available at https://www.mayoclinic.org
2. Karen G. 2017. Understanding Newborn Jaundice. Available at https://healthline.com