J is for Jaundice

A yellow tint to the skin or eyes caused by an excess of bilirubin, a substance created when red blood cells break down.What is newborn jaundice?

Newborn jaundice is a yellowing of a baby’s skin and eyes. Newborn jaundice is very common and can occur when babies have a high level of bilirubin, a yellow pigment produced during normal breakdown of red blood cells. In older babies and adults, the liver processes bilirubin, which then passes it through the intestinal tract. However, a newborn’s still-developing liver may not be mature enough to remove bilirubin.

The good news is that in most cases, newborn jaundice goes away on its own as a baby’s liver develops and as the baby begins to feed, which helps bilirubin pass through the body.

What causes newborn jaundice?

-premature babies, or babies born before 37 weeks’ gestation

-babies who aren’t getting enough breast milk (or formula, for babies that are not being given breast milk), either because they are having a hard time feeding or because their mother’s milk isn’t in yet

-babies whose blood type isn’t compatible with the blood type of their mother

How is newborn jaundice treated?

-Mild jaundice will usually resolve on its own as a baby’s liver begins to mature

-More severe jaundice may require other treatments. Phototherapy is a common and highly effective method of treatment that uses light to break down bilirubin in your baby’s body. In phototherapy, your baby will be placed on a special bed under a blue spectrum light

-In very severe cases, an exchange transfusion may be necessary. In an exchange transfusion, a baby receives small amounts of blood from a donor or a blood bank. This replaces the baby’s damaged blood with healthy red blood cells. This also increases the baby’s red blood cell count and reduces bilirubin levels.