Infant jaundice is a yellow discoloration in a newborn baby’s eyes and skin. It occurs because the baby’s blood contains excess bilirubin, a yellow-colored pigment that is released when the red blood cells dies. It is a common condition in babies born before 36 weeks of gestation. The baby’s liver is not mature enough to remove the excess bilirubin from the blood. In few cases an underlying disease may cause jaundice.

Signs of infant jaundice normally appear between the second to fourth days of life. They include:

• Yellowing of the skin
• Yellowing of the eyes

The yellow coloration starts first in the baby’s face and later it can be seen in the eyes, chest, abdomen, arms and legs. The easy check is to find whether the infant has jaundice or not is to press the baby’s forehead or tip of the nose. If the baby has jaundice the pressed areas become yellow. This should be done in day light only.

Bilirubin is a waste when aged red blood cells are broken down. Mother’s liver filters the bilirubin before birth. The newborn infant has high amount of red blood cells and mostly the liver is not mature enough to remove all the bilirubin formed quickly to the intestinal tract. It is normal in infants and that is why it is called physiologic jaundice. Bilirubin is removed mostly in the stool.

There may be other causes for the infant jaundice. In this case it will be much earlier or much later than the physiologic jaundice. Infection of the blood or bacterial, viral infections, liver malfunction, abnormal red blood cells, internal bleeding or enzyme deficiency can be other causes. Sometimes, the incompatibility of baby’s and mother’s blood can cause jaundice.

The risk factors for infant jaundice include premature birth, bruising during birth and different blood group of the mother and baby. Poor breastfeeding is also an important risk factor for infantile jaundice. It is because of low calories received and dehydration.

The symptoms of excess bilirubin in the blood include fever, high-pitched crying, difficult to wake, poor sucking or feeding and backward arching of the neck and body. Bilirubin is toxic to brain cells. If not treated quickly they can cause permanent brain damages.

The peak level of bilirubin is normally when the baby is three to five days old. In the hospital during these days bilirubin are often monitored in the blood. If you delivery your baby in the home then the attending nurse or doctor must take care of this. Mild infant jaundice mostly disappears without any treatment in two to three weeks. If it is moderate or severe the baby must be treated immediately in the home or must be admitted in a hospital. Necessary treatments as well as the right feeding are necessary to bring down the bilirubin level.