Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Treating Newborns with Jaundice

This AP story on jaundice has been picked up by many media outlets. This article lists some of the risk factors for jaundice. If left untreated, jaundice can have very serious complications as the AP article indicates. I wholly support the proposed test, because more information about your baby's health is better than less. However, I'm not so sure I agree with medicating a baby with jaundice when the bili blankets and lights work so well. I don't believe in giving medication unnecessarily if there are effective and less intrusive alternatives. If you are given these options, do your best to make an informed decision.

My daughter developed jaundice during our second day in the hospital. She was bruised at birth--we saw a hand print on her small back from where the doctor literally yanked her out of my body--and had yellowed skin, some lethargy and a slow start to the breastfeeding due to the lethargy. Fortunately, we were in the hospital so they monitored her pretty closely for three days and had us do an outpatient blood test the day after we left the hospital to be certain her bilirubin levels were dropping. As the boston artice indicates, her levels peaked on the fourth day and then began to drop.

The doctor advised us to alternate breastfeeding with formula feeding to "flush out" the bilirubin. Now I know that frequent breastfeeding would have had essentially the same effect, but this was an older doctor (he had actually been the pediatriacian for one of the nurses) and he had a rather limited view of breastfeeding (he knew enough to say breastfeeding is best, but nothing about how it actually works). You can read articles here and here to learn more about breastfeeding a baby with jaundice.

Unfortunately, it took a while to get the yellow tint out of her skin. We were lucky because our hospital made a follow-up call about a week after she and I had been home. The nurse who called had the same problem with her baby and advised us to let our daughter lay around the house in her diaper in a room with a lot of good indirect sunlight. The sunlight helps break down the bilirubin, but you're not trying to tan the baby so indirect light is best.

We tried it and it worked perfectly.

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