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  Newborn - Jaundice
My baby looks so odd because he is a funny yellow colour and even his eyes don’t look right. Why aren’t the nursing staff worried about him?

Up to half of all newborns develop jaundice in the first few days of their lives. The number is even greater for premature babies. It is rare for jaundice to persist beyond the first two weeks of the baby’s life. However premature babies may take longer as their livers take longer to mature. A normal process of life is the breakdown of red blood cells, releasing bilirubin into the blood stream. The brand new baby’s liver struggles to cope with this process, causing a build up of bilirubin in the blood stream. This causes the yellow skin and eyes, and also affects the baby’s body fluids. However the baby’s body quickly matures and begins to keep up with the breakdown of bilirubin.

Thus although it may look alarming to have such a yellow baby, in fact this is a perfectly normal process and although the hospital staff will keep a careful eye on your baby, they will not be at all worried unless the jaundice persists. In very rare cases there are medical reasons why the baby’s jaundice does not disappear, in which case the doctor will treat the baby to prevent levels of bilirubin that are high enough to cause brain damage. Be assured that this is an extremely rare situation, which the hospital staff will detect, and which is usually treatable.

While he is in hospital your baby will probably be put under fluorescent lights which help his skin process the bilirubin. He will be dressed only in a nappy and have his eyes covered to protect them. Feeding him during this time, and particularly breastfeeding, is vital to help his bowels eliminate the waste products that are being produced, and also to prevent dehydration. Although water supplements will help with the dehydration, it is far preferable to breastfeed if possible. The lights may make him sleepy and reluctant to feed. However both for the bonding process and the reasons just mentioned, you should retrieve your baby from under the lights every 3-4 hours, dress him ( which may also help to waken him) and feed him.

See also:

Newborn - Appearance

Newborn - Bloodshot eyes

Newborn - Circumcision

Newborn - Colour of eyes

Newborn - Confusing day and night

Newborn - Early outings with baby

Newborn - Going home from hospital

Newborn - Handling

Newborn - Cradle Cap

Newborn - Heat Rash

Newborn - Red Rash On Upper Body

Newborn - Spots

Newborn - Reflexes

Newborn - Sticky eyes

Newborn - Swaddling

Newborn - Timing of feeds

Newborn - Vernix

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