Newborn Jaundice

(Hyperbilirubinemia)

Definition

Jaundice is a yellow coloring in your baby’s skin, and sometimes, the whites of the eyes. Newborn jaundice happens during the first weeks of life. There are many types of jaundice, including:
  • Physiologic jaundice
  • Breastfeeding jaundice
  • Breast milk jaundice (human milk jaundice syndrome)
  • Jaundice caused by hemolysis or increased bilirubin production
  • Jaundice caused by inadequate liver function (due to inborn errors of metabolism, prematurity, or enzyme deficiencies)
Baby with Jaundice
Jaundice Baby
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes

The yellow coloring is caused by bilirubin. Bilirubin is a waste product. It is created when red blood cells are broken down. Bilirubin normally passes out of the body through feces or urine. Jaundice occurs when there is an abnormal buildup of bilirubin. Different types of jaundice have different reasons for the abnormal buildup of bilirubin:
  • Physiologic jaundice
    • May be caused by the breakdown of fetal red blood cells.
    • The baby’s body does not get rid of bilirubin very efficiently in the first days of life.
  • Breastfeeding jaundice:
    • Occurs in about 13% of breastfed babies.
    • This type of jaundice is caused by dehydration and poor calorie intake. It may happen in babies that are not taking in enough breast milk.
  • Breast milk jaundice:
    • Occurs in only 2% of babies.
    • It may be caused by a substance in breast milk that blocks the elimination of bilirubin.
  • Hemolysis:
    • Caused by massive breakdown of red blood cells.
    • May be caused by mismatched blood types in mom and baby such as Rh disease .
    • This type of jaundice will occur within the first 24 hours of life. It occurs before the baby leaves the hospital and can be harmful.
  • Inadequate liver function:
    • The liver may be impaired by an infection or liver disease.
    • This type of jaundice usually happens before the baby leaves the hospital.

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