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Things you need to know about neonatal jaundice

Updated: 2020-04-26


Neonatal jaundice, also known as neonatal hyperbilirubinemia, is a common disease in the neonatal period. It is caused by abnormal metabolism of bilirubin in the body, resulting in elevated levels of bilirubin in the blood, which causes yellow staining of the sclera, skin, mucosa and other tissues and body fluids.

The disease is mainly divided into physiological jaundice and pathological jaundice. Statistical data show that 60 percent of full-term infants and 80 percent of preterm infants will have physiological jaundice, which is generally not treated. But for pathological jaundice, early diagnosis and treatment are needed to prevent serious consequences such as bilirubin encephalopathy, nuclear jaundice.

1. How to judge whether the baby has physiological jaundice or pathological jaundice?

(1). Physiological jaundice:

Yellowing of the skin and the sclera occurs within two to three days after birth, peaks in four to six days, while jaundice will naturally subside in seven to 11 days for full-term infants, and jaundice in preterm infants may subside naturally until the third week.

During jaundice, babies can suck nipples forcefully when they are breastfeeding, cry loudly, move their limbs well and have normal stool color.

(2). Pathological jaundice:

Occurs within 24 hours of birth.

Jaundice symptoms develop rapidly.

Jaundice lasts for a prolonged period. The duration of jaundice is longer than three weeks in full-term infants and more than four weeks in preterm infants.

Jaundice returns, the jaundice that appeared after the baby's birth but which subsequently cleared, but the baby's skin or eyes are yellow again.

Reminder: When the baby has manifestations such as depression, lethargy, screaming, sucking difficulties, irritability, an angular arch reflex, fever, strabismus, convulsions or limb rigidity, they have severe jaundice and medical treatment should be sought immediately.

2. Does mother needs to stop breastfeeding after her newborn contracts jaundice?

Statistical data show that 30 percent of breast-fed babies will develop breast-feeding jaundice, which refers to the first three to five days of exclusively breast-fed newborns -- due to inadequate intake of breast milk and delayed excretion of feces, resulting in increased intestinal and hepatic circulation, resulting in bilirubin levels higher than those of artificially fed newborns, or even meeting the criteria for intervention, breast-feeding jaundice often involves a physiological weight loss of more than 12 percent. 

Jaundice occurs one week after birth, peaks around two weeks and then gradually decreases. If breastfeeding is continued, jaundice can persist for four to12 weeks before it subsides; if breastfeeding is stopped, jaundice can subside significantly within 48 to 72 hours. If the newborn is well-developed and other non-physiological hyperbilirubinemic factors are excluded, breastfeeding can be continued without waiting until the jaundice subsides.

3. Are these methods mentioned below useful for the resolution of jaundice?

(1). Can oral probiotics eliminate jaundice?

Theoretically, this method has some effect.

Probiotics can promote gastrointestinal peristalsis, reduce the hepatointestinal circulation of bilirubin and promote bilirubin excretion, thus shortening the jaundice period. However, probiotics should be administered to your baby under the guidance of a doctor.

(2). Can feeding your baby sugar water relieve jaundice?


Sugar water does not relieve jaundice. In addition, feeding sugar water to newborn babies will lead to decreased appetite, fewer times and amounts of feeding, resulting in reduced gastrointestinal peristalsis, affecting bilirubin excretion and will exacerbate jaundice symptoms.

(3). Can herbal Tuihuang powder eliminate baby's jaundice?


Because the liver and kidney functions of newborn babies are immature and the skin and intestinal mucosa are delicate, neither oral nor external herbal Tuihuang powder is suitable for newborn babies.

(4). Can sunshine help baby get rid of jaundice?

Theoretically, this method has some effect.

There are various wavelengths of light in sunlight, that can play the role of ultraviolet light to metabolize jaundice. However, the newborn is not suitable for direct sunshine; it is important to avoid sunshine on the baby's skin, so this method is not recommended.

4. Correct nursing methods for neonatal jaundice.

(1). Feeding: Strengthen breastfeeding, ensure that the newborn has enough breast milk to promote intestinal peristalsis, reduce small intestinal reabsorption of bilirubin, promote bilirubin excretion and reduce neonatal jaundice index.

(2). Observation: Carefully observe the neonatal skin and the sclera’s color and bring baby to hospital in good time if abnormalities are found.

(3). Follow-up: Neonates need to be monitored daily in the nearest hospital after discharge until the jaundice subsides.

(4). Believe in science: Parents of newborns should not believe in folk remedies. Newborn jaundice requires scientific defense. Early detection and treatment can better guarantee the health and safety of newborns.