Jaundice is condition affects around 60% of all babies no matter their gestational age at birth.
A sign that a baby has jaundice appears as a yellow colouring of the skin, mucus membranes, or eyes.
Jaundice occurs when there is a build-up of red blood cells in the baby’s body. Each day the body produces new red blood cells, the old cells are removed by the liver, and are flushed out of their body in bowel motions.
Red blood cells contain bilirubin, which are the principal component in red blood cells and is yellow in colour
Every day, a small number of red blood cells in the body die, and are replaced by new ones. The liver helps break down bilirubin so that it can be removed by the body by the baby’s bowel.
When too much bilirubin builds up in the body, jaundice may result.
Jaundice can occur if:
- Too many red blood cells are dying or breaking down and going to the liver
- The liver is overloaded or damaged
- The bilirubin from the liver is unable to move through the digestive tract properly
Risk factors include:
- jaundice within the first 48 hours
- blood group incompatibility
- previous sibling requiring phototherapy
- cephalhaematoma or significant bruising
- weight loss greater than 10% of birth weight; may be associated with ineffective breast-feeding
- family history of red cell enzyme defects
- macrosomic infant of a diabetic mother
Treatment of Jaundice
A baby with Jaundice will benefit greatly from extra breastfeeds to help their body flush out the bilirubin. Hospitalised baby’s may also be treated with phototherapy, dependant on the severity of the jaundice.