How new parents can care for infants affected by jaundice

Although jaundice is a common condition found in babies born before 38 weeks of gestation and in babies who are breast-fed, new parents must be aware that severe cases can come with long-term complications, such as brain damage, if not tended to properly. Infant jaundice, which is a yellow discoloration in a newborn baby's skin and eyes, happens when a baby's blood contains an excess amount of bilirubin, a yellow-colored pigment of red blood cells.
According to the staff at the Mayo Clinic, it occurs because a baby's liver isn't mature enough to get rid of bilirubin in the bloodstream. Fortunately, in most cases requiring treatment, noninvasive therapy is known to work.
The Mayo Clinic staff recommend calling a doctor if the following signs or symptoms are seen in a newborn. They may indicate severe jaundice or complications from jaundice:

  • Your baby's skin becomes more yellow
  • Your baby's skin looks yellow on the abdomen, arms or legs
  • The whites of your baby's eyes look yellow
  • Your baby seems listless, sick or difficult to wake
  • Your baby isn't gaining weight or is feeding poorly
  • Your baby makes high-pitched cries
  • Your baby develops any other signs or symptoms that concern you
  • Diagnosed jaundice lasts more than three weeks

“When in

fant jaundice isn't severe, your doctor may recommend changes in feeding habits that can lower levels of bilirubin,” the Mayo Clinic says. Talking to your doctor is essential as he or she may suggest several methods to lessen jaundice. These methods do not have to be implemented alone, however. Freedom Home Care’s staff can help new parents provide the care an infant needs through our New Baby Program. Here are two methods suggested by the Mayo Clinic to give parents an idea as to what to expect:
More frequent feedings. Feeding more frequently will provide your baby with more milk and cause more bowel movements, increasing the amount of bilirubin eliminated in your baby's stool. Breast-fed infants should have eight to 12 feedings a day for the first several days of life. Formula-fed infants usually should have 1 to 2 ounces (about 30 to 60 milliliters) of formula every two to three hours for the first week.
Supplemental feedings. If your baby is having trouble breast-feeding, is losing weight or is dehydrated, your doctor may suggest giving your baby formula or expressed milk to supplement breast-feeding. In some cases, your doctor may recommend using formula alone for a couple of days and then resuming breast-feeding. Ask your doctor what feeding options are right for your baby.