Reasons For Jaundice In Newborns And How To Prevent It
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Most parents want to give their babies the best start in life, which includes giving them a healthy diet. Unfortunately, some babies are born with an inherited problem that makes it hard for them to digest food.

Photo by bady abbas on Unsplash

This condition is called “hyperbilirubinemia” or jaundice, and it is the main cause of this condition in newborns. This condition can cause damage to the brain and liver as well as be uncomfortable for the baby.

It is important to find out why your baby has jaundice so that you can take appropriate action to help your baby.

What is Jaundice?

This is a common skin condition that occurs in newborns and infants. It occurs when the liver produces too much bilirubin, which is a yellow-coloured byproduct of the breakdown of hemoglobin in red blood cells.

When this condition occurs, the baby’s skin and eyes may appear yellowish. If this condition continues, it can cause permanent brain damage and death.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Newborn Jaundice?

This medical condition occurs when the amount of bilirubin in the blood is too high, and the symptoms of jaundice is varied. The most common symptoms of this condition are:

  • Yellow skin colour
  • The skin is usually yellow but may be orange or even red.
  • Dark eyes that are sometimes slightly yellowish or pinkish in colour
  • Darker-coloured urine, compared to the urine of a healthy baby, which is usually yellow or clear

Causes of Jaundice

This condition is usually caused by an inherited disorder called bilirubin-induced hyperbilirubinemia. This condition is rare, but it can happen in some newborns.

Other common causes of jaundice are:

Alcoholic Jaundice

This type of jaundice is usually caused by consuming too much alcohol during pregnancy or in the early stages of breastfeeding.

The excessive amount of alcohol in a pregnant woman’s body can affect her baby because it can lower her blood sugar levels to dangerous levels. Drinking alcohol while pregnant or breastfeeding your baby may also cause birth defects.


This condition is characterized by an inability to excrete bilirubin, which is a yellow-coloured substance produced by the breakdown of hemoglobin in red blood cells.

As mentioned, this can be caused by genetic defects or other medical conditions that cause the liver to produce excessive levels of bilirubin.

Breast Milk Jaundice

Hemolytic disease of the newborn babies can occur when there is an infection or incompatibility in the mother’s blood, which causes an attack on the red blood cells of breastfed babies. If this happens, her baby will also have this condition because his red blood cells are destroyed during this process.

It can also be caused by other medical conditions that cause hemolysis (the destruction of red blood cells). The treatment for jaundice varies depending on what is causing it and how severe it is.

Some babies with this condition will need to be treated with antibiotics while others may need to be treated with blood transfusions or phototherapy (the use of light therapy to treat a baby with jaundice).

What are Possible Complications of Hyperbilirubinemia in a Newborn?

The main risks of complications of this condition are:

Brain damage:

Permanent brain damage can occur when bilirubin levels build up in the baby’s brain. If this happens, the baby may be unable to eat or drink, which can lead to death.

Liver damage:

If the baby has jaundice for a long time, it can cause permanent liver damage. The liver helps with digestion and is very important for the baby’s health.

When there is permanent liver damage, it can make it hard for the baby to digest food and absorb nutrients.

Permanent blindness or other eye problems:

This condition can cause permanent eye problems such as blindness or glaucoma (a condition that causes pressure inside the eye). If you have a child with jaundice, get them checked by an ophthalmologist right away so that they do not lose their sight permanently.

How To Prevent and Treat Jaundice In Newborns

The best way to prevent jaundice in newborns is by avoiding exposure to the substance that causes it, or by treating it quickly if exposure has already occurred.

Avoiding Exposure To The Substance That Causes Jaundice

Many substances that cause newborn jaundice are found in foods such as soda, tea, and coffee.

You should avoid exposing your baby to these foods because they may cause excessive amounts of bilirubin. If you eat a lot of these foods during pregnancy, your baby may have this condition.

Treating Jaundice Quickly:

The best way to treat newborn jaundice is by giving them phototherapy or blood transfusions. This therapy involves the use of artificial light to treat them.

It can be done with a special light box or by using special lamps that are designed to emit the right amount of light to treat jaundice. Blood transfusions are used when the bilirubin levels are very high and your baby needs more than one unit of blood.

The blood will be given through an IV (intravenous) line in order to increase the amount of red blood cells in your baby’s body.

If you think your baby has jaundice, contact your doctor immediately. He or she will perform a complete physical examination on your baby and determine if your baby needs any treatment.

If this condition occurs after birth, a medical professional will determine if the condition is severe enough to warrant hospitalization or treatment with phototherapy or medications that increase the amount of bilirubin levels that is cleared from the body.

If these measures are not effective, your doctor may recommend feeding your baby breast milk until he/she has gained enough weight to tolerate solid foods again.

However, breast milk alone cannot provide enough nutrition for babies with severe jaundice, so you should consult with your doctor about any other treatment options you may want to consider before giving up on breastfeeding altogether.

Should a Mother Continue Breastfeeding if Her Child Has Jaundice?

If a mother is breastfeeding her baby, she should continue to breastfeed her baby as long as possible. It is best to avoid giving the baby formula while this condition is present.

It is important that a mother continue breastfeeding because it helps to decrease the amount of level of bilirubin in the baby’s blood. Breastfeeding also provides the baby with important nutrients that help to protect the baby’s brain and liver.

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