Introduction – first week of the life of a newborn baby is very important to know about how he or she is well adjusted to the extrauterine environment and for the establishment of exclusive breastfeeding. It is also important to check your baby for neonatal jaundice during the initial hospital stay and 2-3 days after discharge and then act accordingly.
Jaundice is the yellow discoloration of your baby’s skin and eyes. It occurs due to the presence of an excess amount of a chemical called bilirubin in the baby’s blood. Jaundice occurs in all babies and of any race or colour. Bilirubin is formed by the breakdown of old red blood cells present in every human being. This is a normal life metabolic process. Bilirubin is normally transported to the liver, where it is metabolized into substances that are excreted into stool and urine.
The reasons for neonatal jaundice are different from adult jaundice. Normally during intrauterine life, the placenta metabolized bilirubin formed in the fetus but after birth, the liver actively takes this role but its starts functioning at its maximum level by the end of the first week of life. Another reason for increased jaundice in newborn babies is the short life span of the red blood cells of the baby. Due to these two reasons, jaundice is very common in babies.
If your baby’s skin is bruised at birth or has head swelling after normal delivery due to accumulation of blood then he/she is having higher chances of jaundice.
Some babies are at higher risk of having severe jaundice due to a mismatch between the mother and baby blood groups. In such cases, timely phototherapy treatment is required to prevent neurological problems due to high bilirubin levels.
Most neonatal jaundice is physiological, which means don’t require any treatment and resolves on its own.
The best way to see jaundice is in daylight. The skin of a baby with jaundice usually looks yellow and especially starts from the face. It then gradually spreads to the chest, abdomen, arms, and legs as the blood bilirubin level increases. At very high levels of blood bilirubin, the palm and soles also look yellowish.
We at Cloudnine Hospital, Kailash Colony, South Delhi first examine the baby clinically and then we do a jaundice test through a machine called a transcutaneous bilirubinometer (TcB). This machine measures bilirubin through the skin and does not require a blood sample. If the TcB machine shows a higher value then we send the baby blood sample to know about the exact level of the blood bilirubin. A blood bilirubin level is always needed if jaundice develops before the baby is 1 day old.
Jaundice is more common in babies who are breastfed and are not nursing well. This will cause excessive weight loss and dehydration in the baby. Feed your baby at least 8-12 times a day, especially during the first week of life. This will help you to produce enough milk and ultimately will prevent excessive weight loss and keep your baby’s bilirubin level low.
we admit the baby to the NICU/ward when his/her serum bilirubin level is at or above the phototherapy starting criteria suggested by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Your baby will require phototherapy treatment, which will help in decreasing blood bilirubin levels below the safe level.
In most cases, the baby will require 1-2 days of phototherapy treatment.
Basically, this myth is very common in our society. Direct Sunlight exposure to your baby’s body is not going to help him with neonatal jaundice. This will further aggravate jaundice problems by causing dehydration. So don’t try this and show it to your baby’s pediatrician.
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