You have probably heard the term Jaundice before and if the doctor has informed you that your baby has jaundice you may be worried. If you are wondering what is Jaundice in a baby? take a deep breath. Read on to learn about jaundice and infants. It will be ok!
What is Jaundice?
Jaundice is very common in new babies. When a baby has Jaundice you will notice a yellowing of their skin and also in the white part of their eyes. Jaundice occurs because of a build of a bilirubin in the baby’s blood.
Bilirubin (pronounced bill-uh-roo-bin) is produced by the very normal breakdown of the baby’s red blood cells. It then goes to the liver. The liver breaks down the bilirubin to produce bile. Bile is a fluid that aids in digestion. Your baby’s liver is so tiny and new, sometimes it cannot work fast enough.
It is like that old “I Love Lucy” skit where Lucy and Ethel are working on the candy assembly line. The candy builds up and chaos ensues. Except in this case the bilirubin is piling up. The result of the pileup is the condition known as Jaundice.
What are the types of Jaundice?
There are several types of Jaundice. Most common is normal Jaundice. This is the Jaundice most babies get during the first two weeks of life. As their liver grows a little more, it begins producing bile more effectively and the Jaundice dissipates.
Premature babies can also get Jaundice for the same reason. Their tiny baby livers are even less able to breakdown the bilirubin and can easily have a buildup.
Breastfeeding can cause jaundice in rarer cases. Either due to the baby not getting enough breastmilk (For example, the mom may have trouble producing) or due to the substances in the breast milk. If you are breastfeeding, consult both a doctor and a lactation expert.
When the mother and baby have different blood types Jaundice can occur. This is because the mother’s body does not like the different blood type inside it and begins to produce antibodies to fight the baby’s red blood cells. This can cause the Jaundice because the destroyed blood cells are breaking down so quickly. If this happens the mother can take injections/shots to reverse the biological effect.
How do you know if your baby has Jaundice?
Jaundice tends to show up on the second or third day of life. Baby’s skin will turn yellow. The face is first and then it spreads down. If you press the baby’s skin down and it is yellow where your finger was then you need to call the doctor. You can also check the whites of your baby’s eyes for yellowing.
When to call the doctor?
If you notice the symptoms call the doctor right away even if you are not sure. They will do a blood test to confirm. If your baby looks yellow in the first 24 hours or the yellowing rapidly spreads call immediately. Also call, as usual, for symptoms such as a fever over 100 degrees, the baby is acting ill or will not wake up.
How is Jaundice treated?
Frequently there is no treatment and the jaundice will dissipate by itself. Sometimes breastfeeding may be required more or stopped for a few days. Sometimes a special light is used to treat it. Phototherapy is a method of removing the bilirubin from the baby. In very extreme rare cases a blood transfusion may be required.