What is Jaundice?

What is Jaundice?Infant jaundice is a fairly common condition that causes a newborn’s skin (and sometimes the whites of the eyes) to appear yellowish. It usually starts in the face and moves down the body. The discolored skin typically shows up around two to four days after birth and subsides within a few weeks.

What causes Jaundice?

Jaundice is caused when bilirubin – a byproduct of the break-down of red blood cells – builds up in the bloodstream. Typically bilirubin is processed by the liver and converted to bile, which aids digestion. However, a newborn’s immature liver and excessive red blood cells may yield too much bilirubin and therefore lead to jaundice.

Other Types of Jaundice

Normal infant jaundice is called physiological jaundice.  As described above, this occurs when red blood cells make too much bilirubin for the liver to break down properly. Premature babies are especially prone to jaundice since their bodies and livers have had less time to develop.

Jaundice can also occur from breastfeeding. One way jaundice may develop is if a baby is not able to secure an adequate amount of milk, either because a mother’s milk is not yet available or due to improper latch. A lactation consultant can help advise on the best course of action for both of these issues. In very rare circumstances it’s the breast milk itself that causes infant jaundice. Some breast milk contains compounds that prevent the excretion of bilirubin through the intestines which causes bilirubin levels to rise.

Another rare type of jaundice called incompatibility jaundice may arise if the mother and baby have different blood types. A mother’s body may form antibodies that attack the newborn’s red blood cells before birth, which in turn elevates bilirubin levels.

Additional causes of jaundice include liver problems, red blood cell problems, internal injuries at birth, an enzyme deficiency or an infection.

Treatment for Jaundice

Most cases of normal infant jaundice resolve themselves within a few weeks after birth and no treatment is necessary. Breastfeeding often is one of the best ways to naturally lower your baby’s bilirubin.

Testing in the hospital will determine if a newborn’s bilirubin count is low enough to avoid treatment. Extra caution is taken with preemies even if there bilirubin levels are not extremely high. In some cases phototherapy may be recommended. The newborn will spend time in a “bili bed” where she will be exposed to blue spectrum light. This is effective in helping the body process bilirubin. In more severe cases a small blood transfusion may be recommended.

Side Effects of Jaundice

If left untreated jaundice can cause serious health concerns including deafness, cerebral palsy or brain damage. It can also be the sign of an infection or thyroid issue. This is why monitoring jaundice and seeking appropriate treatment is crucial to your baby’s health. Even if treatment is not recommended in the hospital, call your doctor if you notice your baby’s skin yellowing or the yellowing becomes worse, your baby is extremely irritable and inconsolable, or your baby has a fever. Unfortunately there is no known prevention method for jaundice but breastfeeding is one of the best ways to combat it early before it reaches a critical level.

Sources: Healthline, Kids Health, and The Mayo Clinic

Caring for a Premature Baby

Caring for a Premature BabyIt’s an extremely joyous thing to have another life growing inside you. It’s even more exciting knowing you’re about to be a mother, but when your baby arrives earlier than expected, those feelings of joy and excitement can be washed away completely, and be replaced with fear and anxiety. For a baby to be considered premature they have to be born before thirty-seven complete weeks of pregnancy. Their bodies are not fully developed and this is why many have difficulties with breathing, feeding, keeping their body temperature regulated, or jaundice, which is quite common for premature babies.

Today we are going to discuss a few issues that are most common for premature babies and how you can keep the love and excitement flourishing through this difficult time:

After you’ve given birth to your new little one, they will more than likely have to be transferred to the neonatal intensive care unit for few weeks, or even months in order for your doctors and nurses to monitor their breathing, heart rate, and organ development. While it will be hard to see your tiny bundle of joy hooked up to a ventilator, it’s important to understand your doctor and their team is doing everything they can to provide the best care for your baby. To calm your anxiety, don’t be afraid to ask questions and do a little research. It’s okay to be a concerned parent! Knowing what exactly is going on with your baby will keep you connected to them and ease the tension you may have with the whole situation.

When your baby is ready to come home, and your doctor believes their health is strong enough to be taken out of neonatal care, you may be feeling another rush of anxiety and might think how are you going to give them the proper care they need outside of the hospital? Preemies need a lot of attention to maintain a stable temperature, especially during night time and bath time. Monitored sleep is a big issue for premature babies because cot death can occur. Cot death is an unexplained occurrence when a baby dies suddenly and unexpectedly. This can occur for a preemie because their body temperature can change in a range of seconds. Because you can’t possible watch your baby every minute of the day, you must be aware of their body temp and know the precautions of cot death. Talk to your doctor about a bed time routine and how to check your baby’s body temperature. If they are feeling slightly cold layering is an option. However, you want to be careful not to layer them too much because then they could over heat. Other ways to prevent cot death are to always lie your baby on their back to sleep, don’t fall asleep with your baby while you’re sitting or lying on the sofa, don’t let them sleep with a pillow, and make sure their head isn’t covered with bedding.

Bath time is another way your baby could be losing heat. How often you wash your baby depends on how premature he or she is. At first you should only be using water and never use soap without being told otherwise. Depending on their skin they may be sensitive and you don’t want to cause any infections. When their skin becomes wet they can become cold quickly. Once you’re done with their bath try cuddling them to your skin. This will create more heat and help regulate their body temperature. It’s a good idea to ask your doctor if you can watch the nurses wash your baby while they are still in the hospital. Watching professionals is good practice for at home.

Just like any baby, sleeping and feeding are huge factors for a preemies’ health. You might not think they will eat as much as a normal baby, but they actually need to eat more. They need to be feed more often so they can grow up strong and healthy. If you can, start breastfeeding right away once you leave the hospital. You can store milk and be ready for when your baby comes home. Talk to your doctor about a breastfeeding schedule and how often you need to feed. Breastmilk is one of the best things you can give to your baby because it is packed with key vitamins and minerals needed for your preemie to fully develop their organs. Sleeping is also something you should ask your doctor about because your preemie is going to have a harder time falling asleep than most babies. Ask your doctor about a proper sleep schedule where you can monitor your baby.

One of the best things you can do with your preemie is to spend time with them. The first couple months are going to be quiet ones because you’re not going to want to disturb your baby with lots of company or take them places because they are more prone to infections due to their underdeveloped bodies. While they are in the hospital try to visit as much as you can. Watch the nurses and doctors as they care for them, ask to be a part of bath time, and hold them as much as possible. Creating a mother and baby bond is very important, and getting yourself prepared before you bring them home will help immensely with your anxiety and stress.