Newborns with jaundice are at increased risk for dehydration, since the rising bilirubin level causes the baby to be increasingly sleepy and, therefore, more difficult to feed. One form of jaundice sets in within the first twenty-four hours after birth; a more common form occurs about forty-eight hours after birth -- when most babies are on their way home. An initial sign of hyperbilirubinemia is yellowing of the skin, which begins in the head and, within a few days, moves towards the hands and feet. It is easily seen early on by comparing the skin color of the hand next to the skin color of the face.
If you suspect your baby has jaundice, he or she should be seen by the pediatrician who will most likely order a blood test to determine his or her bilirubin level. Hyperbilirubinemia is most commonly treated by ensuring the baby is well-hydrated, and by therapy with a special ultra-violet light, referred to as phototherapy. It may be treated in the hospital, or with a home phototherapy unit. Untreated hyperbilirubinemia can, very rarely, progress into a condition called kernicterus, which affects the central nervous system. If untreated, the bilirubin level may continue to rise, and although rare, it can progress to a harmful condition.
A quick review of dehydration warning signs:
What to do:
Esther Csapo Rastegari is a registered nurse with a Master's Degree in Education from Harvard University, as well as Bachelor degrees in Science, Psychology and French. Her studies have taken her to France, Hungary and Switzerland. She has worked as a nurse in Obstetrics & Gynecology as well as in Pediatrics. Her current work involves home phototherapy for newborns with jaundice, where she particularly enjoys educating new parents in newborn care, breastfeeding, and postpartum issues.
As a freelance writer, Ms. Rastegari.s work has been published in magazines, newspapers and on the World Wide Web. She is also trained in Therapeutic Touch and has been practicing meditation since 1973.
Copyright © Ester Rastegari. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.