If you ever happen to walk into a baby nursery or the NICU in a hospital, you will notice that half the babies there have yellow, sallow skin that looks too bright. It is nothing but jaundice, which occurs due to the excess bilirubin circulating in the baby’s blood.
The yellowing begins from the baby’s head and slowly seeps down to the toes. Even the eyes appear jaundiced. Bilirubin is normally removed from the body by the liver but babies tend to produce extra bilirubin, often more than what their immature livers can handle. As a result, the bilirubin builds up; causing the yellowish tinge and this is termed as newborn jaundice.
The jaundice builds up by the second or third day and peaks on the fifth day. By the time the child is ten days old, it gradually disappears. Jaundice is very common in diabetic mothers, babies who lose a lot of weight right after delivery and in babies who arrived through induced labour. Here are some tips to deal with it.
Dealing with Jaundice In Babies
Mild jaundice requires little or no treatment as it gradually diminishes over the next few days. That is because as the baby grows, the liver gets stronger and is able to reduce and remove the excess bilirubin from the blood.
Children with moderate to severe jaundice will be kept in the NICU for monitoring and observation and given phototherapy treatment. In this, the baby is placed under bililight or fluorescent light.
Light alters the bilirubin, making it easier for the liver to get rid of it. Babies are naked and only have their nappies on. Their eyes are covered in order to protect them from the light.
Extra fluids may be given to the infant in order to help flush out the excess bilirubin from the body. This is also to compensate for the water loss that occurs from the treatment.
The child may have to be in the nursery for some time until the jaundice completely heals. The child is brought to the mother only for feedings. With the right treatment approach, the bilirubin levels gradually diminish and the baby is allowed to go home.
Jaundice, which springs up later than ten days probably, has an underlying physiological manifestation. Treatment at this stage is critical to bring the levels of bilirubin down, as it tends to affect the brain. If it affects the brain, it can cause a condition called as Kenectirus. This is characterized by weak crying, sluggish responses and ineffectual suckling by the infant. Untreated Kernectirus can lead to permanent brain damage or even death. Regular blood monitoring is required to ensure that the bilirubin levels do not reach a very high level. Drug therapy and surgery may be able to treat severe jaundice.
It has been seen that jaundice is more in breast fed babies than in formula fed ones. Not only is this normal but is also not the criterion for early weaning. Weaning a breast-fed baby with jaundice is not recommended as it deprives the child of vital nutrients and interferes with the supply of the breast milk.