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What is Jaundice?: Back to Articles
by Lauren Feder, M.D.

Excerpt from Natural Baby and Childcare

When I was expecting my baby, I was led to believe that childbirth was one of the ultimate and greatest hurdles, and after my 'bundle of joy' arrives everyone lives happily ever after. However, as a physician, I know that once baby is born, parents are faced with a new set of challenges that await them. There are conditions, procedures and decisions that mom and baby may encounter whether delivering in the hospital, birth center or at home. One of these, is jaundice in newborns. Jaundice is the most common reason for admitting a newborn to the hospital in the first two weeks of life. From my experience as a mother and physician, I found homeopathy and natural parenting suggestions to be helpful in minimizing or preventing conditions, such as jaundice.

What is Jaundice?
Jaundice is a common condition in newborns. It is caused by an accumulation of bilirubin in the body. Normally, bilirubin is produced from the breakdown of red blood cells and then excreted by the liver. Infants are born with an abundance of red blood cells. A newborn's liver is still immature which can cause the yellow pigment in bilirubin to amass and deposit in baby's skin and eyes. As a result baby's skin and eyes can appear yellow. It is not unusual for newborns to be slightly yellow, this is considered normal physiologic jaundice. Baby's bilirubin level can be evaluated from a heel prick blood test. Sometimes medical staff quickly become alarmed if baby's bilirubin is too high. Baby becomes sleepy, lacks interest in nursing and can become dehydrated. Excessively high levels of bilirubin can lead to deafness, cerebral palsy or brain damage. These abnormally high bilirubin levels can be caused if baby is born prematurely, stressed after a difficult birth, mother is diabetic or blood type incompatibility between mother and baby.

In the vast majority of healthy full term babies, mild jaundice is normal and harmless. Breastfeeding babies have a tendency to get more jaundiced than formula fed babies. Usually bilirubin level goes up for the first 3-5 days and slowly decreases. Within one to two weeks of life, it resolves.


 
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