01 October 2007

Baby Science Part 1: Jaundice


Baby has jaundice, so I have learned a little more about it in the last few days. In the womb, babies need a really good oxygen supply so their blood is really thick with red blood cells. After birth, the blood needs to be thinner in order to flow into the smaller capillaries. (That's why newborns have bluish/cold feet and hands for the first few days of life.) As the red blood cells break down, a byproduct called bilirubin is produced, which is what makes the skin and eyes yellow. It is very common for newborns to have jaundice. At high enough levels, bilirubin can cause brain damage.

Bilirubin can be removed from the body in two ways - it can be processed by the liver and excreted, or it can be broken down by light through the skin. A newborn's liver is typically immature and cannot handle the large amount of bilirubin that is produced after birth, so one form of treatment is to feed the baby frequently (every two hours or so) to get the liver excreting waste (including bilirubin) more quickly.

The second form of treatment involves exposing the baby to light, often in a hospital setting in a light box. We did home phototherapy with our little one, as seen above as she napped in a sunny spot by the window. Her jaundice peaked on day four of life, and after a lot of sun time her levels were well past danger by five days old. Her eyes are still a little yellowish, but her skin tone is much more pink today.

1 comment:

Aleatha said...

It's good weather for baby sun bathing. :) She looks really cute with the hood over her eyes...