In the first days of a baby’s life, the fears and doubts of its parents are so wide that any unknown symptom or sign can cause anguish. Jaundice in the newborn is considered a normal process, although it requires supervision so that it does not reach extreme conditions.
In this article you can find adequate information to know the reasons for jaundice in the newborn, as well as some tips on how to act to prevent the condition from getting worse.
Why does jaundice appear in the newborn?
Jaundice is defined as a yellowing of the skin and mucous membranes. Its cause is bilirubin, a substance that appears when the red blood cell is broken down. The way to know the exact values of it is through blood analysis.
But yellowing in the baby is not considered a serious situation if the bilirubin levels are not extremely high. When blood levels are very high, we speak of hyperbilirubinemia and require hospital control and monitoring.
After two or three days after birth, it is normal to see a yellow discoloration on the newborn’s skin. The liver is the organ responsible for eliminating excess bilirubin, but it takes a while for it to start working after birth.
What are the best care for the newborn?
Once we know that jaundice in the newborn does not have to be a serious affectation, we must know how to act to minimize the aggravation of this situation. To do this, there are basic care that all parents can perform:
- Monitor the proper feeding of the newborn. If the baby is breastfed, it is more difficult to ensure food intake. There is jaundice associated with breastfeeding that is rare and usually appears after a week of life. Only the pediatrician, after evaluating the newborn, can indicate whether it is necessary to withdraw breastfeeding for one or two days.
- Home phototherapy. Phototherapy is the technique used in neonatal units to treat hyperbilirubinemia. If a deposit is not required, it can be made at home. Place the newborn for 10 minutes a day in sunlight, with the diaper on and covering the eyes. Choose a solar time that is not harmful, if possible before 9 in the morning.
Identify possible risk situations
As we have previously commented, the most common is to see jaundice in the newborn that is not associated with serious situations. But it is important that we know certain signs that need a medical evaluation :
- Early onset of jaundice in the newborn. If the coloration occurs from the first day of life, the pediatrician will request a blood test to be able to assess the exact result.
- Jaundice in the newborn persists after two weeks of life. It is the time the liver needs to be able to perform its functions well and eliminate excesses.
Complications of jaundice in the newborn
When bilirubin in the blood exceeds extreme values, it can be deposited in brain cells, altering the metabolism and function of neurons. This situation is called kernicterus .
To avoid this situation, a consultation with the pediatrician should be requested when a yellowing of the baby is detected after one week of life.
The pediatrician will perform the appropriate tests to assess bilirubin levels and, if the values are close to extreme parameters, will prescribe hospital admission and treatment with phototherapy and care in the neonatology unit.
What does hospital phototherapy entail?
A newborn who needs phototherapy will need a hospital stay for several days. Nowadays, in most hospitals it is allowed that parents can be 24 hours a day with their children, although it is recommended that they do rest at home.
Nursing staff in neonatal units are prepared to perform the basic care required by newborns with hyperbilirubinemia. It is important to follow the recommendations of specialized personnel.
If you are breastfeeding, it is recommended that you do not withdraw. It is advisable to follow the instructions of the hospital professionals in relation to the feeding of the newborn.
Newborn skin changes during the first days of life and jaundice is one of the most frequent. It is necessary to receive adequate information on the basic care of each one of the frequent alterations.