One medical condition most newborns encounter is jaundice, the yellowing of the skin and eyes. It usually occurs after the first 24 hours of birth and will last up to two weeks or more (if you notice that it doesn’t go away by week two, consult with your baby’s doctor). This happens when your baby’s bilirubin levels are high and the liver is unable to pass it from the body.
Bilirubin is a substance created from the breakdown of red blood cells, which is important that it is excreted by the liver through feces. If it is unable to leave the body and your bilirubin levels rise, it can lead to other health concerns such as brain damage.
During the first 24 hours after birth, your newborn will be screened for jaundice by either visual inspection or laboratory testing. With a laboratory testing, a heel prick test will be conducted.
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When I gave birth to my little one 19 months ago, she was diagnosed with jaundice and had to go through several heel prick testings. Each test was conducted within a few hours apart, depending on how her levels were. Unfortunately, my little one still didn’t reach the “safe zone” and ended up with more heel pricks than I wanted.
Because her levels remained high for the next two days after birth, we had to stay an addition day in the hospital. Despite the unpleasant situation I was facing, there were a few ways that helped my little one lower her bilirubin levels.
Phototherapy is a treatment in which your baby is placed under a special lamp, which helps rid the body of excess bilirubin.
When my daughter was under phototherapy, she disliked it very much. She was stripped to the diaper, had a sleep mask (to cover the eyes), and was encouraged to lay under the lamp the whole day. It also didn’t help that we were still under postpartum care in the hospital as well, causing me to develop a bittersweet relationship with the lamp and the hospital since I wanted to be resting in my home as soon as possible.
If you use phototherapy, make sure you adjust your room temperature so that your little one doesn’t get cold. Our hospital room was chilly so we had to adjust the thermostat, which made it slightly better for my little one (although she still disliked the sleep mask).
A more natural approach to lower bilirubin levels is to help expose your newborn to sunlight. There’s a trick to this, however. I was advised to not place my little one directly under sun rays (for example, putting your baby outside directly under sunlight) as it can be harmful but only expose my baby to sunlight by placing her near the window.
For how long though? For 15 minutes. You can do this 4 times a day but consult with your baby’s doctor for verification.
3. Frequent Feedings
Another way to reduce the amount of bilirubin in your baby’s system is to feed your little one frequently. The more you feed your baby, the more he or she will be able to pass bilirubin through bowel movements.
The recommended number of feedings for newborns with jaundice is 8 to 12 times a day. You may feed your baby every 2 to 3 hours to keep his or her bilirubin levels down. If you find it hard to keep track of feedings, use this super helpful feeding log so you can jot down when your baby is feeding and how often.
If you are struggling to produce milk supply, supplementing is an alternative to help your baby increase bowel movements. Breastfeeding can be a challenge for some Moms, as it was for myself. Before you supplement, make sure you meet with a lactation consultant who can provide lactation aid so that you can learn the best and proper ways to feed baby.
With my daughter, I mainly bottle fed due to low milk supply. Because I wasn’t producing, I was bottle feeding in hopes of reducing her bilirubin levels so that she can pass it out of her body. Thankfully by the fifth day after birth, my daughter was in the clear – no more treatments and no more testings!
Oh, and one more thing.
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