640 South State StreetDover, Delaware 19901
21 West Clarke AvenueMilford, Delaware 19963
401 North Carter RoadSmyrna, DE 19977
640 S. State StreetDover DE 1990121 West Clarke AvenueMilford DE 19963
301 Jefferson AveMilford, DE 19963
1275 S. State StreetDover, Delaware 19901
Hyperbilirubinemia happens when there is too much bilirubin in your baby’s blood.
Bilirubin is made by the breakdown of red blood cells. It’s hard for babies to get rid of bilirubin. It can build up in their blood, tissues, and fluids.
Bilirubin has a color. It makes a baby’s skin, eyes, and other tissues to turn yellow (jaundice). Jaundice may first appear when your baby is born. Or it may also show up any time after birth.
During pregnancy, the placenta removes bilirubin from your baby’s blood. When a baby is born, the baby's liver takes over this job. Your baby may have too much bilirubin for many reasons.
During the first few days of life, babies aren’t able to get rid of much bilirubin. This type of jaundice happens as a response to a baby’s reduced ability to remove bilirubin.
Many babies don’t breastfeed well at first. This causes breastfeeding failure jaundice. Not feeding well makes your baby dehydrated. It also causes your baby to urinate less. This makes bilirubin build up in your baby’s body. Babies born between weeks 34 to 36 of pregnancy are more likely to get this problem. These babies often don’t have the coordination and strength to breastfeed well. But this condition is also common in full-term newborns. It usually gets better once a baby learns how to breastfeed well.
About 1 in 50 breastfed babies get jaundice. This happens during their first week of life. It peaks at about 2 weeks of age. It can last 3 to 12 weeks. This issue may be caused by a substance in breastmilk. This substance may increase how much bilirubin the baby's body can reabsorb.
If your baby has Rh disease (hemolytic disease of the newborn), he or she may get this type of jaundice. This issue can also be from having too many red blood cells. These cells can break down and release bilirubin.
Jaundice can happen if your baby’s liver doesn’t work well. This may be because of an infection or other factors.
Symptoms can occur a bit differently in each child. They can include:
The symptoms of this health problem may be similar to symptoms of other conditions. Make sure your child sees a healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
The timing of when your child’s jaundice first starts matters. It may help his or her healthcare provider make a diagnosis.
Your child’s doctor may do the following tests to confirm the diagnosis:
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.
Bilirubin absorbs light. High bilirubin levels often decrease when a baby is put under special blue spectrum lights. This is called phototherapy. Your child may get this treatment in the day and night. It may take several hours for it to start working. During light treatment, your baby’s eye will be protected. Your baby’s healthcare provider will check your baby’s temperature. He or she will also test your baby’s bilirubin levels. This will tell if phototherapy is working.
A fiber optic blanket is another form of phototherapy. The blanket it put under your baby. It may be used alone or with regular phototherapy.
This test removes your baby’s blood that has a high bilirubin level. It replaces it with fresh blood that has a normal bilirubin level. This raises your baby’s red blood cell count. It also lowers his or her bilirubin level. In this test, your baby will alternate giving and getting small amounts of blood. This will be done through a vein or artery. Your baby may need to have this procedure again if his or her bilirubin levels stay high.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says that you should keep breastfeeding a baby with jaundice. If your baby is dehydrated from light therapy, you may need to supplement with pumped breastmilk or formula. You may also need to do this if your baby has lost too much weight.
This may include treating an infection.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
Bayhealth is Southern Delaware’s healthcare leader with hospitals in Dover and in Milford. Bayhealth provides a wide range of medical services, including cardiovascular, cancer, orthopaedics and rehabilitation, pediatrics, respiratory care, sleep care, surgical weight loss and women’s services.