What Every Parent Of A Newborn Needs To Know About Bilirubin & Jaundice

Health & Medical Blog

Whoever came up with the idiom, "sleep like a baby," must not have had experience with too many babies. Babies do look very peaceful when sleeping, but that doesn't mean they will be peaceful when they wake up! Usually. However, sometimes babies have too much bilirubin in their blood, which can make them sleep a lot longer than they should and, when they awaken, they are still too sleepy and have a high-pitched cry.

Another tell-tale sign of too much bilirubin is a yellowing in the skin and in the whites of the eyes. It's called jaundice. Here's what every expectant parent and parents of newborns need to know about bilirubin and jaundice. 

What Is Bilirubin & Infant Jaundice? 

When red blood cells breakdown, a yellow substance called bilirubin is produced. When there's too much bilirubin in the blood, it causes the skin and eyes to turn yellow. The reason there is sometimes too much bilirubin in a newborn's blood is that their livers are not mature enough to eliminate the bilirubin from the blood. When the amount of bilirubin is high in the blood, it leads to a condition called infant jaundice. Briefly press the tip of your finger into your newborn's forehead then pull it away. If the skin appears yellow, your newborn likely has jaundice.

What Are the Other Symptoms? 

In addition to yellow in the whites of the eyes and in the skin, jaundice can cause other problems such as poor feeding, inability to gain weight, listlessness, high pitched crying, arching of the neck and body backwards, difficulty waking up, and fever. It's important to understand that excessive bilirubin can cause acute bilirubin encephalopathy, which can lead to significant brain damage. Fortunately, there are treatments that can reduce the bilirubin in the blood to prevent permanent damage. 

How Is It Treated? 

Treatment for jaundice in newborns is done by first measuring the amount of bilirubin in the blood through a blood test. This will help the doctors develop a treatment plan, which typically involves sunlight or the use of phototherapy in the hospital. If extremely high, they will be monitored in a NICU and given phototherapy, which is basically similar to a tanning bed. Tests will need to be repeated, sometimes on a daily basis, until the newborn's bilirubin count is low. 

It's important for every parent of a newborn to be familiar with jaundice and be able to recognize it before it takes a dangerous course. If you have a newborn with jaundice, it's crucial for you to take your newborn immediately their doctor for pediatrician services.


1 August 2019