Characteristics of newborn jaundice

Why does a baby becomes yellow?


What is jaundice in babies?

Jaundice in infants is a disorder characterized by yellowing of the skin and whites of the eye (sclera) as a result of the accumulation of bilirubin in the blood.

It is a kind of disorder especially prevalent in infants


Causes of physiologic jaundice

Ababy with jaundice

It is normal for a newborn to have physiological jaundice for about 14 days after birth. After these days, jaundice disappears. (Drawing by courtesy of ©

What causes the onset of jaundice in the baby’s body is the accumulation of bilirubin in it. The main cause of excess of bilirubin in the baby’s body is due to the inability of baby’s liver to remove bilirubin because this organ is not prepared to perform their duties yet.

Other causes that can cause this type of jaundice are: the ability of the baby’s intestine to reabsorb bilirubin before expelling it out in feces or the greater capacity for renewal of red blood cells in infants than in adults.

This type of jaundice is called physiologic jaundice. It is normal for a baby to have physiological jaundice for about 14 days after birth. After these days, the jaundice usually disappears.

Therefore, physiological jaundice, in a higher or lower degree, is normal in babies and it is not a problem.

This type of jaundice requires no treatment.

Causes of breastfeeding jaundice

Breastfeeding jaundice is a very common type of jaundice. It takes place when the babies do not get enough milk.

Sometimes it is necessary to replace mother’s breast milk with formula milk for a few days to fix the problem.

Causes of breastmilk jaundice

Sometimes, breast milk contains components that do not let bilurubin to be excreted through the intestines.

It is a type of jaundice that is called breast milk jaundice.

It appears in 1 and 2% of breastfed babies, between 3 and 5 days of life and usually disappears within a period of three weeks or four months.

What is pathological jaundice?

On other occasions, what causes the emergence of jaundice is an abnormal increase in mortality of red blood cells. This leads to very high levels of bilirubin in the blood, producing what is known as pathological jaundice.

Pathologic jaundice requires medical treatment to prevent potential negative consequences, such as kernicterus (brain damage caused by excessive levels of bilirubin), deafness or cerebral palsy

Causes of pathological jaundice

Among the causes that can cause this type of jaundice, we can include the following:

  • Incompatibility between the blood of the mother and the baby: This inconsistency in the RH factor causes massive destruction of red blood cells of the baby. Since the blood of the mother is different from that of the baby, the mother produces antibodies that destroy the baby’s red blood cells. It is a type of disorder that originates during the first 24 hours following birth.

To avoid this problem Rh immunoglobulin is injected to the mother so that she does not produce antibodies.

  • Hemolytic Anemia

  • Cephalhematoma or bleeding under the scalp

  • Protein deficiency

  • Infections

  • Etc.

Jaundice because and excess of bilirubin

Sometimes pathological jaundice occurs due to problems in the removal of bilirubin. Among the reasons that may cause this condition, we include the following:

  • Liver diseases

  • Disease or abnormalities in the bile ducts

  • Infections

  • Low level of oxygen

  • Etc.

Why does bilirubin increase in babies?

Among the factors that may facilitate development of this type of jaundice, we can point out the following:

  • Premature Babies

  • Mothers with diabetes

  • Births at high places above sea level

  • Induced births.

  • Babies who have lost weight during the first days after birth

Symptoms of jaundice in babies

Jaundice in the infant is manifested by yellowing of the skin and whites of the eye. It usually occurs within two days of birth, starting at the head and working down to the feet. The face turns yellow, then the chest, belly and legs and finally the soles of the feet.

Sometimes jaundice can be accompanied by lack of appetite, fatigue, sleepiness, fever or abnormal behavior.

Diagnosis of jaundice in babies

It is advisable to check the baby’s skin during the first two days after birth to see any symptoms of jaundice. Parents are advised to take the kids to the pediatrician after a couple of days of birth. Diagnosis is made initially with the physical observation of the baby by the doctor.

If symptoms of jaundice are found, the doctor may order a blood test to check the levels of bilirubin in it. Depending on these levels or the presence of other abnormalities, the doctor will make a diagnosis and an appropriate treatment.

When to take the babies to hospital if they are becoming yellow?

Parents should take their babies to the hospital if any of the following symptoms takes place:

  • Symptoms of jaundice in the first 24 hours of life.

  • Jaundice is increasing along the body

  • Jaundice lasts longer than two weeks

  • The baby has a fever, poor appearance or unusual behavior

Treatment of jaundice in babies

If jaundice is not very important, it is solved by itself as the baby’s liver matures. When jaundice is not resolved or if this is important, the physician may choose one of the following treatments:

  • Phototherapy: it involves the application of blue light on the baby’s skin to remove excess of bilirubin. This type of light gets bilirubin to break down, so it can be removed more easily. Phototherapy treatment can be performed in the hospital with the baby in an incubator with lights. It can also be done at home using special blankets or mattresses provided with this type of lights.

  • Replacement of breast milk: In breastfeeding jaundice, it is usually recommended substituting breast milk by formula milk for a few days until the problem is corrected. Later refeeding the baby with breast milk can be continued.

  • Combining breast milk with formula milk: This will lower components of breast milk not accepted by the baby that could be responsible for the onset of jaundice.

  • More frequent breastfeeding: It is aimed to increase defecation in order to eliminate more bilirubin.

  • Exchange transfusion: It is applied only in severe cases. It is aimed to provide clean blood to remove excessive bilirubin.

  • Intravenous immunoglobulin: It is another type of treatment that can be applied in more serious cases.

Natural treatment of jaundice in babies

The natural treatment of jaundice in newborn babies involves using a series of natural resources that can serve as a complement to formal treatment

punto rojo More information on jaundice.

Written by Editorial Botanical-online team in charge of content writing

19 March, 2019

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