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Excerpt from Your Baby’s First Year Week by Week (part 7) - Jaundice

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17. Jaundice

Studies show that more than 50% of all newborns develop jaundice, also called hyperbilirubinemia. It may be up to you to detect if your baby has jaundice. Most cases of jaundice develop between 2 and 5 days after birth—your baby may be home from the hospital by then! It is most obvious by day 4.

Jaundice occurs when levels of bilirubin get too high. This can occur more often if a baby is premature, ill or at risk. Left untreated, it can cause hearing loss and even brain damage.

Phototherapy is used to treat jaundice. Baby is exposed to ultraviolet light, which changes the bilirubin into a substance that can be disposed of more easily by the body.

In the hospital, determining the level of bilirubin in your baby’s blood may involve a blood test or the Colormate TLc BiliTest, in which a handheld device is used to measure the yellow tinge of baby’s skin. The test is 95% accurate, and results are available in minutes.

Symptoms of jaundice include yellow appearance of the skin (caused by excessive amounts of bilirubin), which is often first seen in the face. The whites of the eyes (the sclera) may also appear yellow. The yellowness of the skin spreads to the rest of the body. Even the nail beds may appear yellow; pinch the fingernail gently and release to check for yellow discoloration.

Most cases of jaundice resolve on their own in the first few days as the baby’s liver develops. However, a small number of cases turn into kernicterus; see the discussion below.

What You Can Do at Home. You can test baby at home, if you believe she might have jaundice. With your finger, press on her forehead or nose. The imprint should be pale in color for every baby, no matter what ethnic background. If it’s not, let your pediatrician know. He or she can do a blood test for definitive results.

When to Call the Doctor. Mild jaundice is not serious; follow your doctor’s advice. Bili lights, also called phototherapy, may be used. These ultraviolet lights break down bilirubin, making it possible for it to pass from your baby’s bloodstream. It also helps improve the condition if baby is feeding well because bilirubin is excreted in her bowel movements. Call your doctor if your baby appears to be getting more yellow, or if she is not feeding well. Your pediatrician wants to know if baby experiences any problems.

Kernicterus. Kernicterus is caused by severe newborn jaundice. It is a rare but serious disease that can affect a baby soon after birth. The level of bilirubin is monitored in newborns to determine whether treatment of jaundice is needed to prevent kernicterus.

Kernicterus is an abnormal accumulation of bilirubin in the brain and other nerve tissue. It causes yellow staining of the skin and sclera (whites of the eyes) and damage to the brain. Early diagnosis and treatment of jaundice are the keys to avoiding kernicterus.

18. Vaginal Discharge in Girls

After birth, your baby girl may have a vaginal discharge that is clear or white. This is caused by the excessive hormones in her body from her mother. It is rarely a problem. To take care of it, gently clean the vaginal area. The discharge should soon disappear. Call your baby’s doctor if the discharge seems excessive or if the color is yellow or green.

19. Toys and Play This 1st Week

This first week of life is the beginning of a wonderful time of games and play you will share with your child for years to come. You’ll find that as you get to know your baby better, games and fun will begin to present themselves. You’ll make a game out of something very ordinary, and it will be a special time for you both.

20. Help Stimulate His Vision

To stimulate his vision, hold bold-patterned objects within 8 to 12 inches of him, and let him look at them. At this time, he prefers bold patterns and the contrast of black and white because he can’t see the nuances of color yet.

Baby will also enjoy looking at pictures of people’s faces. Cut some large pictures out of a magazine to hold in front of him. Let him gaze at them as long as he is interested. When he begins to squirm or look away, it’s time to end the game.

21. Talk and Sing to Him!

Begin your journey of play and interaction with words and music. Talk to baby as often as you can; hearing your voice is what matters. Sing to him—even if you can’t carry a tune! Tell him what you’re doing and what’s going on. Play soothing music for him when he’s fussy; it may help settle him.

Talk to your baby throughout the day and when you interact with him. One study showed that a baby needs to hear 30 million words by the time he is 3 years old to be prepared for maximum learning when he goes to school. So talk to him!

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