Jaundice is a yellow discoloration of the skin. This yellow coloring is created by a substance in the blood called bilirubin. Many healthy newborns have jaundice. However, there are certain acceptable levels for jaundice based on the age of the infant and whether your baby was born full term or early.
A bilirubin level is measured by using a special machine to scan the skin or by taking a small sample of blood from your baby. Most cases of jaundice are mild. However, there are some instances where the levels reach a concerning range. A high bilirubin level can be dangerous to an infant’s brain, resulting in damage, if it is not treated early.
Bilirubin levels are generally measured in the hospital to ensure it is within an acceptable range before a newborn is sent home. However, those levels may reach its highest point sometime between 3 and 5 days of life. So, if an infant leaves the hospital before seventy-two hours old it is recommended that he/she be seen by a pediatrician within 2 days of discharge. In some cases an earlier follow up may be needed if bilirubin results, prior to hospital discharge, were in a borderline range.
Though high bilirubin levels cannot be avoided for some infants, due to certain risk factors, there are some things you can do to help keep levels low:
Feed your baby every 2-3 hours, or 8-12 times every 24 hours.
After 3 days of life, make sure that your infant is producing at least 3-6 diapers in a twenty-four-hour period. During the first 2 days of life babies should have a minimum of 2 wet diapers over a 24-hour period.
Monitor for any signs that the yellow tinge to the skin may be worsening. Jaundice typically starts on the face and travels down the chest/abdomen, followed by the limbs, as the levels become higher in the blood. Call us immediately for an appointment at the earliest sign that the yellowish color may be starting to “travel” down your baby’s body.