How can infant jaundice be treated?
Whether you are a first-time or expecting mother, there will be many issues that will keep you up at night. Infant jaundice is one of them. Here’s what you should expect and how to go about treating your child.
What is Infant Jaundice?
Infant jaundice typically appears when there are elevated levels of bilirubin in the blood – usually 2 to 4 days after childbirth. Bilirubin is a yellow substance that the body creates when it is replacing old red blood cells. It causes a yellow discolouration of the skin and white of the eyes because the liver, which usually removes bilirubin from the baby’s body, is still too immature to do its job.
About 50% of term and 80% of pre-term babies develop jaundice and although it might look like an alarming condition to first-time parents, it will usually improve without serious after-effects after 1 to 2 weeks. If your child has jaundice that persists for more than 3 weeks, it may be a symptom of an underlying condition. In fact, elevated levels of bilirubin could put your baby at risk for conditions like deafness, cerebral palsy or other forms of brain damage.
The good news, however, is that infant jaundice is very common and can be easily treated.
How do I know if my child has infant jaundice?
The obvious signs will be the yellowing of his skin and white of his eyes. Other symptoms to look out for include:
- Pale-looking stools: babies who are breastfed usually have greenish-yellow stools while bottle fed babies’ stools are a greenish-mustard colour
- Poor sucking or feeding skills
- Dark urine: a newborn’s urine is ideally colourless
A simple check to see if your child has infant jaundice is to press gently on his forehead or nose. If the skin is jaundiced, it will look yellow at the area where you pressed.
Can infant jaundice be prevented?
Unfortunately, jaundice is not something you can prevent in most cases. You can reduce the risk by keeping your baby well-hydrated with adequate milk, but it’s not encouraged to ‘sun’ your child as there is no evidence that it benefits your child. It might even be harmful to your newborn child if you are not careful because the UV rays could damage your child’s delicate skin or cause overheating.
How can infant jaundice be treated?
To determine whether your child needs treatment, it depends on whether your child was born premature, how high his bilirubin levels are as well how fast the levels are increasing. Mild infant jaundice usually goes away on its own within 2 to 3 weeks, but moderate or severe infant jaundice will require treatment.
Your doctor may prescribe phototherapy treatment where special fluorescent lights are used as an effective way to break down and reduce the bilirubin in your baby’s skin until his liver is mature enough to process the bilirubin. Alternatively you may want to carry out the phototherapy treatment at home with the help of equipment you can rent from Cradle n Care Pte Ltd. Why? Because it has the following advantages:
- It allows you to continue breastfeeding your child without having to deliver the breast milk to the hospital where he has been admitted.
- It gives you the opportunity to bond with your little one.
- You can monitor your child’s jaundice levels with the help of the equipment from Cradle n Care and get your doctor’s confirmation later.
- Cradle n Care works with reputable healthcare brands like GE Healthcare and Draeger to offer a home solution where infant jaundice can be treated in the comfort of your home. They also provide a jaundice meter that you can use to monitor your child’s jaundice levels via a needle-less way any time and anywhere.
This article is published in LiveWell Baby vol. Nov 2017