Jaundice is caused due to the accumulation of bilirubin (a yellow pigment) in the skin. Almost all new born babies have some level of jaundice or yellowing of the skin, however, some babies have more. Once the liver matures, the filtering is more complete and jaundice disappears.
When blood cells complete their life cycle, they are broken down in the body. Bilirubin from these cells is released, which gets filtered in the liver and then excreted. Since the liver of the baby is not fully developed, it cannot filter the entire bilirubin formed, which thus accumulates in the skin, resulting in jaundice.
How to Tell Jaundice in Newborns
A simple test at home can help you determine if your baby has jaundice. This test can be done when you are back home and suspect your baby has jaundice.
On babies with very fair skin, you can apply a little pressure with your finger on the baby’s chest. If the skin has a yellow tinge on removing the finger, you should consult the doctor. Ensure that this test is done in a brightly lit room. If the skin is darker, you can check the pupils, nails, palms and gums for yellowing.
Except in severe cases, the jaundice caused in new born babies is temporary and clears without any long term effects. You should consult your doctor if you have any doubts regarding the measures you are taking and getting your baby back to health.
How to Get Rid of Jaundice in Newborns at Home
The chance of jaundice is higher if the baby is born prematurely, since the liver is even less developed than full term babies. It can also occur in babies who have different blood group from the mother. In this case, the breakdown of cells is higher and the quantity of bilirubin is higher. Newborn jaundice is temporary and harmless and usually clears off on its own. Steps given below can be taken to bring down the level of bilirubin.
- Sunlight Exposure
In case of slight jaundice, treatment may not be required. However, the following step after consulting your doctor can be tried out. You should place your baby in sunlight for around fifteen minutes every day, at least 4 times a day. The baby’s skin should be exposed and the glass window should be closed to filter sunlight. The bilirubin in the skin gets dissolved due to the sunlight and gets excreted through urine.
- At-Home Lamp Therapy
This therapy can be tried when the bilirubin level is increasing instead of reducing and it is an alternative treatment to keeping the baby in the hospital. If the bilirubin levels are unusually high, keep the baby under special sun lamp. A new type of treatment is to wrap the baby in a blanket which reduces the bilirubin. This is a very easy way of home treatment for mild case of jaundice.
- Frequent Feeding
Hydration is essential for flushing out excess bilirubin from the body. For this reason, frequent breast-feeding is very essential. Initially less milk is produced and breast-feeding frequency is also less which can be a contributing factor for early jaundice. If the frequency is increased, milk production also increases. Baby should be fed every 2 -3 hours and when he wakes up at night. In case the breast milk is inadequate, formula supplements might be required to increase hydration and help in the excretion of bilirubin.
- Herbal Supplements for Mothers
Supplements like Dandelion tea contain certain substances which help in detoxifying. The mother can take these supplements so that it can pass on to the baby through the breast milk. These natural detoxifiers help in flushing out the excess bilirubin from the baby’s body. Mother should continue breast-feeding so that this mild treatment continues to work and help in getting rid of jaundice. The issue with this remedy is that Dandelion tea may be a bit scarce in Nigeria, however it can be found on Jumia for about #6,000.
- Temporary Stop of Breastfeeding
If the doctor informs you that the jaundice has occurred due to breast milk, you might have to temporarily discontinue feeding your baby. To ensure that you continue to produce breast milk, you can pump your breast every day and start breast feeding once the doctor gives you permission to.
Home remedies do help in most cases. However, when you notice the following things happen to your baby, do not hesitate to consult your doctor if any signs of jaundice are noticed in the baby within 24 hours of being born. Also, if there is no sign of the jaundice reducing or if it starts worsening. Likewise, if the baby starts looking or acting sick and if the yellowish tinge increases or if the baby is not feeding well or sleeping more, see the doctor immediately.