Why does your newborn look yellow?
The red blood cells in your body are in a constant process of breakdown and regeneration. One product of this replacement cycle is a yellow pigment known as ‘bilirubin’.
Babies have more red blood cells in utero than they do later in life. Given that babies in utero are unable to breathe independently, these cells transport the specific oxygen supply that they need. The red blood cells are broken down via the placenta and the mother's organism.
Upon delivery, the red blood cells in the baby's liver begin breaking down in a natural process.
Your baby may become jaundiced (yellow) because their liver is not yet mature enough to break down the extra waste products in their body. Consequently, the infant’s blood contains a build up of residual waste products.
‘Yellow’ babies tend to be more lethargic and drowsy.
If the midwife suspects your baby may be jaundiced, they will use a skin sensor to perform an initial check on the child and may also take a blood sample.
Together with the paediatrician, the decision will be made as to whether your baby requires light therapy (phototherapy).
- Your baby will be laid down on a small phototherapy pad that emits blue light.
- The blue light converts the bilirubin into an excretible form
During phototherapy sessions
- Your child will remain in the room with you.
- You may continue feeding the baby yourself during the phototherapy session.
- The therapy will only be interrupted during bathing.
The morning after the therapy, hospital staff will check your baby’s bilirubin level. Once this level has fallen sufficiently, your child will no longer need phototherapy.
Things to consider
For "yellow" babies, there are some points to consider:
- Regular monitoring of the body temperature
- Administration of sufficient fluids
- You may have to give your baby extra feedings to promote the bilirubin excretion. Because your baby is so drowsy, you will also have to stimulate them to feed. The midwife will help you with this.