What Is Infant Jaundice?

All parents want is to bring a happy, healthy baby into this world. However, sometimes things go differently from planned. One of the possible conditions that can occur after birth is infant jaundice.

Infant jaundice is a yellowing of the whites of the eyes. The baby’s skin is also prone to a yellowish tint when jaundice is suspected. The yellowing is due to a high level of bilirubin in the body.

Bilirubin is produced in the liver. When red blood cells break down and release the heme inside, it produces bilirubin as a waste product. Like other waste products, bilirubin is removed from the body via the blood and the urinary system.

In a baby, bilirubin is removed by the mother’s bloodstream like any other waste products. The process is quicker then because the mother’s system compensates. When a child is born, the liver may not be developed enough to handle the level of bilirubin present and jaundice results.

Jaundice is usually not something to be worried about. If you notice the yellowing, call your doctor. He or she may ask you to bring baby in for an examination. Usually within a couple of weeks, the liver reaches a level where it can filter out the bilirubin and send it to the kidneys to be removed as a waste product. The yellowing disappears and baby is fine.

Jaundice can occur in a full term baby but is more common in premature babies. When the liver doesn’t have time to develop fully, an overproduction of bilirubin is often the result. There are other reasons that a baby may become jaundiced:

* Bowel issues
* Red blood cell abnormality
* Disease of the liver
* Sepsis
* Liver inflammation (hepatitis)
* Infection
* Rh incompatibility

You may notice other signs that something is wrong with your baby before you see the yellowing of the skin or eyes. Jaundice could be the possible cause if these symptoms are present:

* Lack of color in stools
* Dark urine
* Poor feeding habits
* Drowsiness
* Poor weight gain

If these signs and the yellowing don’t disappear after the first two weeks, the condition may be more severe. Your baby will probably need to be admitted to the hospital and a course of treatment started.

If the doctor doesn’t mention it, ask about getting your baby tested for jaundice before you leave the hospital. Doctors can test the bilirubin levels and let you know if there is any chance of jaundice or if there is a problem.

Jaundice is not often a cause for concern but it can be serious. Let your doctor know when you first see symptoms and have them judge the severity of the condition.