What Is Jaundice And How Is It Treated?

Have you ever been interested in what is jaundice and how is it treated? Well, if you did, now you`ll be able to get your answer to these questions and other related ones.

What Is Jaundice And How Is It Treated

What Is Jaundice?

Jaundice represents a condition which may happen in babies with 2 or 3 days after childbirth. Jaundice is whites of the eyes or a yellowing of the skin. The medical condition is caused by elevated levels of bilirubin in the blood of the baby. The affection typically occurs on the baby`s face and then it spreads to the entire body. The condition is best seen in natural light and can become more difficult to notice in babies with darker skin.

Breast milk jaundice represents the condition which persists after physiologic jaundice becomes less intense. The affection is noticed in otherwise healthy, breastfed newborns. There are no known causes for this type of medical condition, although it`s speculated that it might be related to a substance from the breast milk which is blocking of the bilirubin breakdown.

Breastfeeding jaundice occurs when the newborn doesn`t get sufficient milk. It has no relation to breast milk jaundice. Proper breast milk amounts increases the movements of the newborn`s bowel, helping secrete the bilirubin buildup.

Bilirubin, known in the past as haematoidin, is produced by the normal breakdown of the red blood cells. Typically, bilirubin passes through the liver and is excreted via bile after passing through the intestines. Jaundice appears when bilirubin is secreted in larger amounts than those that the newborn`s liver is able to destroy. The reasons may be:

  • Newborn babies secret more bilirubin than adults, since they have more red blood cells.
  • The infant`s liver, still being in development, may not be able to eliminate the proper quantity of bilirubin from his body.
  • A larger quantity of bilirubin is reabsorbed through the intestines before it can be eliminated from the infant`s body.

The increased levels of bilirubin, usually over 25mg, can cause to some babies cerebral palsy, deafness as well as other forms of brain damage. In rare situations, infant jaundice can indicate the presence of other medical conditions, such as an infection or a thyroid related issue. Also, doctors advise that all babies should be tested for the level of bilirubin in the first days of their life.

Types of Jaundice

  • Physiologic jaundice (normal type) appears to the majority newborn babies. This small form of icterus is caused by the immaturity of the baby`s liver, which leads to a slow processing of bilirubin. It usually appears after 2 to 4 days after birth and disappears after 1 or 2 weeks.
  • Jaundice of in the premature babies appears often to babies born prematurely because they are generally unprepared to excrete bilirubin. To avoid complications, this type of icterus needs to be treated at a lower level of bilirubin than at babies born by normal birth.
  • Jaundice caused by breastfeeding can appear when a child that is breastfed doesn`t get enough milk because of difficulties at sucking or because mothers don`t have milk yet. However, it isn`t caused by an issue with the mother`s milk, but because the infant isn`t able to suck the milk properly.
  • Jaundice caused by the mother`s milk can appear at 1% to 2% from the breastfed babies and is caused by the substances found in the milk, which can increase the level of bilirubin. These substances can prevent the excretion of bilirubin from blood. It usually appears after 3 to 5 days after birth and disappears after 3 to 12 weeks.
  • Blood group incompatibility (or RH) – if the infant has a different blood type than his mother, she can produce antibodies that can destroy the baby`s red blood cells. This reaction will lead to the immediate increase of level of bilirubin in the baby`s blood. Baby jaundice coming from the blood group incompatibility can appear since the first day of the infant`s life. In the past this was the most serious type of icterus, but now  this can be prevented with a simple infection in the first 72 hours after birth. This injection, which contains the mother`s RH immune globulin, will prevent the forming of antibodies that can put the baby`s health in jeopardy.


Benign Causes

  • Traumatic or iatrogenic strictures.
  • Main biliary tract sludge & cystic fibrosis.
  • Gallstones.
  • Liver cyst.
  • Recurrent pigeon colangitis.
  • Acute & chronic pancreatitis.
  • Liver flukes.
  • Pancreas pseudoist.
  • Scleroderma cholangitis.
  • Oriental cholangiohepatitis by ascaridosis.
  • Aortic aneurysm.
  • Duodenal diverticula & benign duodenal tumors.
  • Gallbladder adenoma or papilloma.

Malignant Causes

  • Pancreas cancer.
  • Bile papillomatosis.
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).
  • Duodenal cancer.
  • Cholangiocarcinoma.


  • Gastric.
  • Pancreatic.
  • Gallbladder.
  • Colonial.
  • Lymphoma.
  • Pulmonary.
  • Breast.
  • Liver.

Symptoms & Diagnosis

Jaundice usually occurs in the second or third day after childbirth. It`s initially located around the head, and then it spreads to the other body segments.

The skin of a newborn who experiences this medical condition will be yellow at first, only around the face at the beginning, and then around the chest, upper abdomen, and on the legs in the end.

It would be recommended for the doctor to examine the baby 3 to 4 days after childbirth. If the mother and child have already gone home, it becomes the parents` responsibilities to notice the occurrence of the condition. – Read more!

The diagnosis involves a clinical investigation of the baby by a physician along with a blood test to determine the level of serum bilirubin. There`s also a possibility for an approximate measurement with the use of a lamp and then, if the level is increased, bilirubinemia is dosed.

When to Contact the Doctor?

Parents need to visit the doctor`s office immediately if:

  • Jaundice spreads or becomes more pronounced.
  • The baby`s fever is more than 37 C (measured intrarectally).
  • The baby shows symptoms that he suffers.
  • The baby isn`t hydrated in the proper way or is sleepy.
  • The baby experiences spasms or convulsions.
  • The baby is apathetic or has mitigated reflexes.

How Long Does a Baby Have Jaundice?

Breast milk jaundice might last anywhere between 3 and 12 weeks after childbirth, but if the levels of bilirubin are monitored and the newborn is feeding well, it leads to severe complications very rarely. Breast milk jaundice needs to be differentiated from breastfeeding jaundice, meaning a condition that is resulted from not getting enough milk.


If jaundice is not serious, until 1 or 2 weeks the baby`s organism will take care of the level of bilirubin on its own. For a more serious baby jaundice, phototherapy can be a good treatment, which involves exposing the infant to a special light which in turn will help the baby`s liver to eliminate bilirubin.

More frequent feedings can help eliminate bilirubin naturally. In more rare situations, a blood transfer can be recommended to offer the baby fresh blood so he can eliminate bilirubin naturally. – Click here!

If the baby has icterus that seems to be from the substances the mother`s milk produces, the doctor can advise for a temporary interruption of breastfeeding. During this time, the mother can use a milking pump to maintain the milk production and then she can breastfeed again after the medical condition disappears.

If the quantity of bilirubin is large, the baby can be send back to the hospital for treatment. Once the level of bilirubin decreases and the treatment is interrupted, it`s unlikely for the treatment to be resumed.

Treatments Not Recommended

  • Sugar water – This may worsen the condition by interfering with the breast milk production or intake of breast milk. It may also delay the bilirubin level reduction.
  • Discontinuing breastfeeding – This might make the medical condition worse and may even sabotage the effort of the mother in offering her baby with the best possible nutrition. Effective and frequent breast milk feedings represent the best method of decreasing this condition.

Can Jaundice Be Prevented?

This condition takes place in 50% to 70% of all babies, so there`s really no way whatsoever to prevent the affection. However, there are a few methods of preventing jaundice to worsen.

  • Get in touch with a lactation consultant to make certain that you achieve an adequate latch and the newborn is getting proper milk amounts.
  • Avoid as interrupting the breastfeeding process or supplementation, if possible.
  • Start the breastfeeding process as soon as you can after childbirth. Research outlines that the bonding between a mother and her child starts when breastfeeding is initiated brings out less challenges as well as a higher success rate when if it`s began in the very first few hours from childbirth.
  • Feed your newborn more often in the very first couple of days of his life. Don`t attempt to put him on a schedule until the bonding has been efficiently established. If he is sleepy, try to keep him awake so he can get full feedings.
Image courtesy of babystuffz.com

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