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By Planning Family


Jaundice can be caused by prematurity, infection, exposure to drugs during labor, or bruising at birth. Different types of jaundice exist with physiological version being the commonest form in newborns. It is not a true disease, rather a symptom that affects more than half of healthy newborns in the initial days of life. As a rule if there is no underlying cause to jaundice, it will subside without treatment in the first week of life.

The Cause

Jaundice is the result of a raised level of bilirubin, a yellow pigment byproduct that results when red blood cells breakdown. This process occurs around the 2nd or 3rd day after baby is born. Baby's immature liver is unable to clear the excess buildup of bilirubin fast enough causing it to accumulate in the blood. Instead of being directed to the bowel for excretion, the overload spills into the system and manifests itself in the skin and eyes.

What next

• Baby may develop a yellowish tinge to her skin 2-3 days following birth. The whites of her eyes will also turn yellowish. The doctor will examine the jaundice situation by extracting blood from a vein in baby's hand or heel and test the bilirubin level.

• Physiological jaundice usually occurs around day 2-3 and peaks at day 4-7. As baby's stay at the hospital is very brief, parents will have to monitor at home.

• Symptoms will start to subside around day 7 and disappear within 2 weeks.

• Frequent feeding is recommended; it is important for newborns with jaundice to feed well and have extra fluids.

• The extent of jaundice can be assessed by observing the face and upper body in natural light - a flushed, tanned parlor indicates jaundice. For further proof, gently press your finger on her cheek, release, and note the skin tone when you remove your finger. If it is a deep yellow repeat this action on her chest. You should take baby to hospital for a review if the chest is also yellow.

• Apart from a yellowish parlor, if baby is lethargic, slow to feed consult your doctor. An appropriate treatment will be prescribed


• Phototherapy is the usual form of treatment prescribed if treatment is required. It uses the wavelength of the blue spectrum of light to break down bilirubin molecules thereby assisting the immature liver to process the bilirubin faster.

• Once upon a time natural sunlight was a popular therapy but these days doctors have their doubts on the efficiency of this method due to depletion of the ozone layer - the sun rays could prove to be too strong for baby's sensitive skin doing more harm than good in the long run.

• Phototherapy is performed in the hospital premises under medical supervision.

• Treatment is usually given intermittently e.g. for one hour in four.

• The baby is undressed and the eyes are well protected with shields before being placed under blue fluorescent lamps. The light breaks down the bilirubin which the baby then excretes.

• Sometimes babies are placed on fiber optic blankets to increase the amount of absorbed light.

• The treatment of jaundice with lights is easy but if that fails drastic forms of treatment will be taken, so it is important to maximize the time under phototherapy.

Common Concerns explained

Eating ginger while breastfeeding will cause baby to be jaundiced!

Jaundice is due to raised levels of bilirubin in baby's bloodstream and an immature liver. There is no conclusive evidence suggesting a link between the two, but do remember that ginger is a herb and an excess of anything may not be beneficial to you or your baby.

Eating carrots and papaya during pregnancy will cause jaundice in my baby!

These foods contain beta carotenes which are not the same as bilirubin. Eating excessive amounts of food containing beta carotenes may cause your skin to have a yellowish hue but that is not jaundice. Still, it pays to eat a variety of foods and not zero in on one particular type.

Breastfeeding aggravates jaundice in babies!

Breastfeeding does not cause physiological jaundice; instead inadequate feeding may aggravate the jaundice. There is a condition known as breast milk jaundice which develops a week after birth and seems to occur in exclusively breastfed babies. The exact cause is unknown but there is no real necessity to stop breastfeeding. Discuss your concerns with your doctor or lactation consultant.

Feeding water to jaundiced baby is preferred!

It is important for jaundiced babies to be hydrated, but a milk diet is preferred since it is packed with water and nutrients and helps eliminate bilirubin more effectively. Water on the other hand is just plain fluid without the nutrients.

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Disclaimer: Information contained on this Web site is intended solely to make available general summarized information to the public. It should not be substituted for medical advice. It is your responsibility to consult with your pediatrician and/or health care provider before acting on any advice on this web site. While OEM endeavors to provide up-to-date and accurate information, it is not liable for any advice whatsoever rendered nor is it liable for the completeness or timeliness of any information on this site.
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