Can yellow food in a mum's diet cause jaundice in a newborn?
Is your newborn baby's skin a shade of yellow? What can you do about it?
For first time parents, watching their wrinkly, pink, newborn turn a shade of yellow can be scary. And then, the term 'newborn jaundice' can be scarier. How can a just-born baby have jaundice? When will my baby be normal again? Is it contagious? There are a thousand and one questions floating in your head.
As a caregiver, first thing you must do is relax. Jaundice in newborn babies is usually harmless. Of course, if your little one appears to have it, make sure he is examined.
According to Marchofdimes, about 3 in 5 babies have jaundice. "Infantile jaundice is a very common finding. Most babies don't need any treatment for the condition. But as soon as parents notice a yellowish discolouration of skin on their baby, they must report to a newborn specialist," says Dr Vivek Jain, additional director & HOD neonatology, Fortis Hospital, Delhi.
The why and when of jaundice in newborns
Jaundice is caused by the accumulation of the pigment bilirubin in the blood, when red blood cells are broken down. In newborn babies, the red blood cells are broken down frequently. The liver, which is responsible for removing the bilirubin from the blood, is immature in new babies. It is hence unable to excrete the pigment effectively, leading to jaundice. Unlike adults, jaundice in newborn babies is not caused by a virus and hence, not contagious.
The yellowing of skin and the whites of the eyes is a major symptom. If you suspect your newborn suffers from jaundice and does not seem to show any discolouration of skin, gently press on your baby's forehead or nose. If the area you pressed looks yellow, it's likely that he has jaundice.
"This condition usually appears between 3rd to 5th day of life, reaches the peak by day 7 and resolves between day 10-14," informs Dr Jain. In a two-week-old, the liver is more capable of processing the pigment and the jaundice eases up.
Continue reading to know if your baby requires treatment for jaundice
Does my baby require treatment for jaundice?
Only if the jaundice in an infant is extreme does the need for treatment arise. Otherwise, it clears up on its own. "Long exposure to sunlight helps resolution of jaundice in babies," informs Dr Jain.
A newborn specialist, on regular examination, may have a better idea of the severity of the condition. If needed, a blood test may be ordered to determine the levels of the pigment present. If the condition is declared severe enough, then the following treatment methods may be applicable:
- Phototherapy treatment
When the level of jaundice is very high, babies need phototherapy treatment in the NICU. This is when a baby is placed under special lights that help his body process bilirubin that he can get rid of in his urine.
- Blood transfusion
If phototherapy doesn’t work and your baby’s bilirubin levels are still high, he may need an exchange transfusion. An exchange transfusion gets rid of of the pigment by replacing a baby’s blood with fresh blood in small amounts.
The jaundice myths
A lot of myths surround newborn jaundice and they are just that- myths. Keeping yellow coloured objects near the baby or the mother eating yellow coloured food has nothing to do with neonatal jaundice. Regularly breastfeeding the newborn and exposing him to adequate sunlight should manage the condition.
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