Jaundice is a yellowish discoloration of the white of the eyes, and skin, occurring due to build up of bilirubin in the blood of an individual. For a newborn baby, it is common and is also known as Newborn Jaundice. During pregancy, the mother’s liver filters out the bilirubin out of the blood of the fetus. After birth, this process is taken over by the baby’s liver. Bilirubin is a by- product of the breakdown of red blood cells. Infants break down these cells at a faster rate than the adults. In addition, the newborn liver is immature and takes time to catch -up on the filtering process. All these factors, work together to create newborn jaundice.
What can we do to prevent jaundice?
There is little you can do to prevent jaundice. However, some basic prenatal care and assessment can decrease the risk:
Preventing premature births: prematurity is a strong risk factor for jaundice. Take care of yourself during pregnancy, eat right and take plenty of rest, and avoid fatigue especially in third trimester.
Test your blood and baby’s father’s blood for Rh factor:
Rh factor is an enzyme that sits on the surface of red blood cells. If the mother is Rh negative, and father is Rh positive, mother can potentially carry an Rh positive baby. This causes antibodies in the mother to fight the Rh factor in the baby. Mother will require treatment with Rh immunoglobulin during pregnancy to prevent serious newborn jaundice.
Opt for breastfeeding:
Begin breast feeding immediately within first few hours after birth, and feed the baby frequently (on demand) which will prevent dehydration in the baby that can exaggerate the neonatal jaundice, as well as establish a good milk flow.
Don’t follow the myths associated with sunlight:
There is no role of exposure to sunlight to prevent or treat newborn jaundice.
What to do if your child has got Newborn Jaundice?
If your baby is suffering from jaundice, firstly don’t panic. Note that it is expected. However don’t ignore that your baby needs to be inspected by a pediatrician. Take your baby to a specialist and follow the clinical routine that he recommends. Follow the medication and support your baby to get well again. Over the few days if you follow the instructions to the ‘T’ you will see a change in the baby’s skin colour. He/She shall go back to their original pinkish self. If your baby develops high fever that refuses to subside, do not self medicate- consult a specialist in all cases.