Recognize the Causes of Jaundice in Babies and How to Overcome It

Causes of Jaundice in Babies

Baby jaundice or jaundice is a condition that is common in newborns. Although generally harmless, there are a number of things to pay attention to if a baby shows signs of jaundice. That way, proper treatment can be carried out immediately.

The condition of jaundice in infants is marked by a yellow color on the skin or the whites of the baby’s eyes. In addition, babies with jaundice usually have dark yellow urine, pale stools, and yellow palms and feet.

Symptoms of this disease usually appear 2-3 days after birth and can disappear by itself within 2 weeks. However, if it doesn’t get better, this condition can be a sign of a serious illness, such as brain damage, cerebral palsy, to hearing loss.

Causes of Jaundice in Babies

Jaundice occurs due to a buildup of bilirubin in the baby’s blood. Bilirubin itself is a yellow substance produced from the natural process of destroying red blood cells. This condition often affects newborns, because their liver function is not yet functioning optimally.

Actually, the baby already has bilirubin since he was in the womb, which is produced by the placenta. After birth, bilirubin from the baby’s bloodstream will go through a filtering process by the liver and be released into the intestinal tract.

However, because the baby’s liver is not yet fully developed, while more bilirubin is produced, the process of removing bilirubin becomes obstructed.

Jaundice caused by an increase in bilirubin is very common and is also called physiological jaundice. In addition, it can also be caused by the following conditions:

  • Sepsis in infants
  • Viral or bacterial infection
  • Internal bleeding
  • Liver damage
  • Lack of certain enzymes
  • The baby’s red blood cells are not normal so they are easily damaged
  • Rhesus and blood group incompatibility between mother and baby
  • Problems with the baby’s digestive system, including biliary atresia

Premature babies and babies who have difficulty consuming breast milk are also at high risk of experiencing this disease.

Complications that Might Happen to the Baby

Jaundice caused by high bilirubin levels can have several complications, including:

Acute Encephalopathy

This condition occurs when bilirubin in the baby’s blood enters the brain area, then damages brain cells, causing encephalopathy. There are several symptoms of acute encephalopathy that can appear in infants, including:

  • Fever
  • Throw up
  • Difficulty feeding or sucking on the mother’s nipples
  • Sluggish
  • Hard to wake up
  • Neck and body arched back
  • More fussy and restless


Acute encephalopathy in infants that is not treated properly can cause kernicterus or permanent damage to the brain. This kernicterus can cause a baby to lose hearing so that the development of tooth enamel or the outer layer of teeth is hampered.

How to Overcome Jaundice in Babies

Jaundice in newborns usually doesn’t require special treatment because it goes away in 10–14 days. However, if the results of the examination show that there is a high level of bilirubin in the baby’s blood, special treatment from a doctor is needed.

The following are the main treatments for babies who have high bilirubin levels:

Phototherapy converts bilirubin into a form that is easily broken down by the liver using a special light
Exchange transfusion is the process of removing the baby’s blood using a catheter placed in a vein and replaced with blood from a suitable donor.

You can prevent an increase in bilirubin, which can cause jaundice by giving him adequate food intake. Breastfed babies should nurse 8–12 times a day for the first few days of life.

In infants who are fed formula, you should give 30–60 ml of milk every 2–3 hours during the first week after birth to prevent a rise in the level of bilirubin in the baby’s blood.

Adequate food intake is also able to overcome excess bilirubin in the baby’s blood, which will later be excreted in the feces.

If your little one has jaundice, you should periodically check the condition, especially the whites of the eyeballs and skin. This examination should be done 2 times a day to see if the condition has returned to normal or has gotten worse.

If the baby’s condition does not improve after 14 days, immediately consult a doctor to get treatment. Prompt and appropriate treatment will reduce the risk of a baby with jaundice experiencing permanent brain damage.

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