All About Jaundice


When you’re a new parent, any possible condition your baby may have sounds daunting. We simply don’t want to think about the possibility of anything being wrong with our babies, especially in their first few days of life. One of the most common problems babies experience in their first couple months is jaundice.

Don’t worry. It’s not as scary as it sounds. Jaundice is caused when baby’s liver isn’t handling the bilirubin, which is caused by the breakdown of red blood cells, as well as it should. When bilirubin levels get high, typically in the first couple months of baby’s life, her eyes, mouth, and skin may take on a yellowish tone.

This isn’t usually anything to worry about, but you should take your baby to see her doctor. Your doctor will take a sample of baby’s blood to check her bilirubin levels. In most cases, doctors will monitor the bilirubin levels, and nothing more needs to be done.

One thing you can do to help your baby if she has jaundice is to make sure she gets plenty of sunlight. Placing her bassinette or crib by a window with the shades open can give baby some of the extra light she needs. You should also feed your baby more often if he has jaundice. Babies with jaundice should be fed at least every 2-3 hours.

If baby’s bilirubin levels are too high, doctors will use light therapy to treat baby’s jaundice. This may be done in the doctor’s office or at home. Often doctors will prescribe a biliblanket, which parents wrap their little ones in. The biliblanket is essentially a cloth wrap with several rows of lights in it.

Whichever type of light therapy (more properly called phototherapy) your doctor uses, the idea is that the light causes the skin and blood to be able to break down the bilirubin so it can be eliminated in baby’s urine. This treatment may last from one or two days to a week or more, depending on the severity of the jaundice. The treatment lasts until baby’s liver is mature enough to deal with the bilirubin on its own.

In rare instances, babies may need a blood transfusion if they don’t respond to phototherapy. However, even in these instances, it is very rare these days for any real harm to come to baby because of jaundice. Just make sure that baby’s doctor is aware of the situation if you see a yellow tint to baby’s skin or eyes so that he can monitor your baby’s bilirubin levels.

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