What is newborn jaundice? New moms guide

Newborn jaundice is a common condition in newborn infants. It might be a source of concern for new moms. In this article, I will explain what newborn jaundice is, what are the symptoms, causes, medical treatments, and home remedies, to offer a useful guide for new mothers.

Dr. Hossam Al Tatari
Published on:Oct 6th 2022 |Updated on:Mar 10th 2024
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How common is newborn jaundice

60% to 70% of newborn babies are diagnosed with newborn jaundice. Some of them might require medical interventions, and in some rare cases, some complications occur.

What are the causes of newborn jaundice?

Red cell degeneration

Red cell degeneration in newborn babies is very common. This degeneration produces high amounts of Bilirubin when it happens at a fast pace. This causes jaundice because the body is unable to rid of the excess bilirubin due to a decrease in the efficiency of the liver and intestines.

Types of Jaundice

Direct bilirubin jaundice

This is the less common type, and it occurs because of the liver’s inability to get rid of bilirubin. This type might require medical intervention that can go to the extent of surgery; however, it is not considered dangerous since it doesn’t reach the brain.

Indirect bilirubin

It is the most common type and in case it reaches the brain it can be dangerous. It can happen when an infant is diagnosed with one of the following:

- Physiological jaundice, occurs the second day after birth and goes away after two weeks.

- Breastfeeding jaundice, happens because the baby isn’t getting enough breast milk, due to different breastfeeding issues. It can be treated by increasing the frequency of breastfeeding, to ensure the baby is getting enough milk.

- Breast milk jaundice, this type occurs during the fourth or fifth week after birth. Due to the appearance of a hormone in the milk that slows down the work of the liver, rendering it unable to get rid of the excess bilirubin. It is treated by increasing the frequency of breastfeeding as well as constantly checking the bilirubin levels.

- Jaundice that is related to high red blood cells count, that can happen because of infections, the mom and baby having two different blood types, which requires immediate medical intervention, or any other physical ailments.

- indirect bilirubin can also happen because of thyroid issues in the infant, or other genetic issues.

Neonatal jaundice symptoms

Common symptoms:

- Yellowing of the skin.

-  Yellowing of the whites of the eyes.

More serious symptoms:

- The baby is too sleepy.

- Decrease in feedings.

- Having dark yellow urine.

- Having pale stool.

Dangerous symptoms:

- High fever.

- Seizures.

- Having loose muscles.

- In severe cases, the baby might lose hearing and eyesight.

Newborn jaundice diagnosis

The most important step in dealing with neonatal jaundice is to do the necessary testing to measure the bilirubin levels and test to see if they decrease or increase. And then decide if treatment is necessary. In addition to identifying the causes of jaundice and setting a suitable treatment course. Other factors taken into consideration are if the baby was a full-term baby or was delivered prematurely, family medical history, the existence of genetic disorders, or thyroid problems.

 Newborn jaundice treatment

If test results indicate the need for medical treatment, the pediatrician would admit the baby to the hospital and treat him with a special light, that helps break down the indirect bilirubin to help the body get rid of it through urine and stool. In some rare cases, the pediatrician might recommend giving the baby formula, to ensure he is getting enough nutrition. The treatment might also include giving the baby IV fluids to treat jaundice. In case bilirubin levels continue to climb, an exchange transfusion might be necessary, it is a complex process that is done in the NICU.

 Home remedies for Jaundice

There are many home remedies for Jaundice, but are they helpful? Here are some of the most popular home remedies:

- Sun exposure

This is not only an inefficient treatment, but it is also harmful as it increases the baby’s temperature and can cause dehydration.

- Using oils

Moms often use oils as their go-to remedy for many things. However, there has been no proof so far of the benefits of oils in treating jaundice.

- Sugar and water

Although very popular, this treatment is inefficient.

How to treat jaundice at home?

If the doctor’s orders didn’t include any medical treatment, all you have to do at home is breastfeed your baby as often as possible. And constantly check with your pediatrician to measure the bilirubin levels.

Learn How to hold your baby safely


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Dr. Hossam Al Tatari Consultant in pediatrics

Dr. Hossam is a pediatrician, certified by the American Board of Pediatrics in General Pediatrics and Pediatric Infectious Diseases. Dr. Al-Tatari then joined the University of Western Ontario, Canada as an adjunct professor until the summer of 2009 when he moved to Tawam Hospital in the UAE as the chief of pediatric infectious diseases. Dr. Al-Tatari has now moved to become the director of general pediatrics and pediatric infectious diseases at the Heart Medical Center in Al-Ain. UAE. He meanwhile continues to work for the University of Western Ontario as a part-time faculty member. Dr. Al-Tatari has repeatedly received awards as the pediatrician and the teacher of the year in the USA, Canada, and UAE. Dr. Al-Tatari has more than 100 abstracts and articles in the field of pediatric infectious diseases. Despite his busy schedule, Dr. Al Tatari is passionate about educating parents and providing them with sound medical information and advice, to help them best care for their children’s health. He shares his knowledge through his designated YouTube channel, and his social media accounts, as well as contributing to various educational platforms.

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