The yellowing of the skin of a baby including the white part of his eyes is a sign of jaundice which is a common problem among newborns. The yellow color usually begins to appear two or three days after the baby’s birth. Jaundice is often seen in normal healthy babies during their first week or so of life.
Jaundice occurs when there is too much bilirubin in the baby’s blood. Generally, all newborns have some jaundice although it may not be noticeable at all times.
Bilirubin is a yellow pigment that is formed during the regular process of recycling old red blood cells. On that time before the baby is born, bilirubin is removed from the infant’s circulation through the placenta. At birth, the baby takes over the process of removing the bilirubin from the blood which usually takes a couple of days before the baby achieves efficiency. In short, bilirubin levels are normally a little higher during those first few days after the baby is born.
Jaundice among babies is believed to be a temporary and harmless condition which should go away either on its own or with the use of a mild treatment. Only in very few cases where jaundice seemed very serious had been recorded. Be very watchful of your baby when you suspect that he has jaundice.
What causes jaundice among newborns?
Babies born prematurely or those that are born before the 37-week gestation period are at the highest risk to have jaundice.
Newborns who are not getting enough breast milk are also at risk. Either they are having difficulty feeding or their mother’s milk is not in just yet. The situation is also referred to as breastfeeding jaundice which is the most common reason why jaundice is present in an infant.
Another cause is when the baby’s blood type is not compatible with his mother’s blood type.
Some babies can develop a higher bilirubin level as a result of having a lot of damaged red blood cells at birth.
Are there any signs and symptoms of jaundice?
Apart from the fact that jaundice would normally appear around the newborn’s second or third day of life, it is also important to note where you can find early signs of it on your newborn. A baby with jaundice would appear yellow usually beginning on the face. The color then goes to his chest and stomach. The last part to turn yellow would be the legs.
Jaundice can also turn the white part of your baby’s eyes into yellow.
Infants who have dark skin may not show the yellow coloring of the skin as easily as other babies with lighter skin tone.
After birth, most newborns would now go home from the hospital which makes it important that doctors check them for signs of jaundice around 1 to 2 days later.
You can also check for jaundice by doing this simple trick. Gently press your baby’s skin on the nose or on the forehead. After lifting your finger, you should notice how the skin would appear yellow if your baby has jaundice.
For best results, you can check your baby under good lighting conditions, most preferably in natural daylight.
If your baby seems to be jaundiced, you can also check on the level of bilirubin through a blood test. Depending on how healthy your baby is and the level result of the test will help in assessing the type of treatment that is needed for your baby.
Jaundice that indicate a severe condition or complications due to excess in bilirubin will have the following signs and symptoms. In this case, you need to contact your physician immediately or you can proceed to the emergency room.
- The baby’s cries are high-pitched.
- The baby is not gaining weight or is feeding poorly.
- The baby seems sick, listless or shows difficulty to be awakened.
- The baby has a floppy muscle tone.
- The baby has a fever at 100.6 or even higher.
- The yellowing extends lower than the nipple line.
- The baby develops any other signs or symptoms that may cause additional concern.
- Jaundice on your baby lasts over three weeks.
What type of treatment is given to babies with jaundice?
Normally, babies who seemed healthy and have mild jaundice do not require any treatment. The baby’s liver will eventually mature and when it does, it will cause the bilirubin to break into other chemicals which would then pass out through the gut.
Babies whose bilirubin level is getting higher may have to undergo the so-called “phototherapy” or light therapy. Using light energy will allow the bilirubin, which is just under the baby’s skin, to turn into a different chemical. This new state makes it easier for the baby to pass it out his body through excretion.
Phototherapy treatment is effective and absolutely safe and may have to be done for several days.
What can happen to my baby if he needs to undergo phototherapy?
A baby who is undergoing phototherapy will have to be placed in a warm covered cot. Either he will be allowed to stay in a room with his mother or he will be moved to stay in the nursery ward.
Eye shields will have to be placed over the baby’s eyes.
In order to get the maximum amount of light to fall on the baby’s skin, he needs to be naked while nursing.
Your baby may have to feed more often while he is having phototherapy.
Doctors may decide to continue doing blood tests on your baby every day in order to decide whether your baby still needs phototherapy.
If, for instance, the levels of bilirubin had become very high, doctors may require your baby to undergo an exchange transfusion which is actually a rare situation. The process involves replacing the baby’s blood with a different blood. Sometimes, the blood would come from the mother.
It is important that your baby gets all the caring that he needs while undergoing phototherapy.
If there are no phototherapy lights available, you can also try putting your baby next to a window where he can get lots of indirect light as opposed to getting direct light from the sun. However, the results may not be as good as what your baby can get from phototherapy.