|Jules in his phototherapy bed, swaddle in a blanket|
Jaundice is the result of a raised level of bilirubin, a yellow pigment byproduct that results when red blood cells breakdown. This process occurs around the 2nd or 3rd day after baby is born. Baby's immature liver is unable to clear the excess buildup of bilirubin fast enough causing it to accumulate in the blood. Instead of being directed to the bowel for excretion, the overload spills into the system and manifests itself in the skin and eyes.
Baby may develop a yellowish tinge to her skin 2-3 days following birth. The whites of her eyes will also turn yellowish. The doctor will examine the jaundice situation by extracting blood from a vein in baby's hand or heel and test the bilirubin level.
Physiological jaundice usually occurs around day 2-3 and peaks at day 4-7. As baby's stay at the hospital is very brief, parents will have to monitor at home.
Symptoms will start to subside around day 7 and disappear within 2 weeks.
Frequent feeding is recommended; it is important for newborns with jaundice to feed well and have extra fluids.
PhototherapyPhototherapy is the usual form of treatment prescribed if treatment is required. It uses the wavelength of the blue spectrum of light to break down bilirubin molecules thereby assisting the immature liver to process the bilirubin faster.
Once upon a time natural sunlight was a popular therapy but these days doctors have their doubts on the efficiency of this method due to depletion of the ozone layer - the sun rays could prove to be too strong for baby's sensitive skin doing more harm than good in the long run.
The baby is undressed and the eyes are well protected with shields before being placed under blue fluorescent lamps. The light breaks down the bilirubin which the baby then excretes.
Sometimes babies are placed on fiber optic blankets to increase the amount of absorbed light.
The treatment of jaundice with lights is easy but if that fails drastic forms of treatment will be taken, so it is important to maximize the time under phototherapy.