Jaundice refers to the yellow color of the skin and whites of the eyes. It can occur in newborn of any race or color. It happens when a chemical called "bilirubin" builds up in the baby's blood.

Every one’s blood contains bilirubin which is removed by the liver. Before birth, the mother’s liver removes bilirubin for the baby. When a baby is born, the baby’s liver must remove it. However, during the first few days after birth, the baby’s liver might not be developed enough to efficiently get rid of the bilirubin. Then most babies can develop jaundice during that period.

Newborn jaundice
  • It appears first in the face and moves to the chest, arm and legs depending on the bilirubin level. In some babies, the white of the eyes looks yellow.
  • It will be better after 1 week, and will disappear by 1 month.
  • It causes no harm to the baby. In unusual situation bilirubin level can increase to such a high level that it can cause brain damage.
  • Babies who have not been sufficiently fed and loses weight have a higher chance of newborn jaundice. If you are breastfeeding, you should nurse your baby at least 8 to 12 times a day for the first few days. This will help you produce enough milk and will help to keep the baby’s bilirubin level down.
If you have trouble breastfeeding, ask your baby’s doctor or nurse or a lactation specialist for help. Breast milk is the ideal food for your baby.
Most jaundice requires no treatment .When treatment is necessary, a treatment with light known as phototherapy may be used. It helps the baby’s body break down the extra bilirubin. The baby will wear only a diaper and sleep under a phototherapy light. The baby will be treated until the bilirubin level decreases to the level that is not harmful to the baby.
  • In breastfed infants, jaundice often lasts for more than 2 to 3 weeks. In formula-fed infants, most jaundice goes away in 2 weeks.
  • After 4 weeks, if infants still have jaundice accompanied with pale colored stool, please discuss the symptoms with your pediatrician.
  • Frequent feedings (at least 8 to 12 times in 24 hours) can speed up the rate that stool passes through the intestine. This can reduce the amount of bilirubin that is reabsorbed from the bowel.
  • Rarely, breastfeeding may need to be discontinued for 1 or 2 days if bilirubin levels become extremely high in a baby who has 'breast milk jaundice'. In the situation like this, the mother can continue to express breast milk regularly so breastfeeding can be restarted once bilirubin levels start to decrease. Restarting breastfeeding at this time poses no risk to the baby.

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