Dealing with Infant Jaundice

Our daughter was born 4 weeks ago, we feel so joyed to have her in our lives. The moment she was born, was just absolutely amazing. I can’t even describe the joy and love it brings to you to hold your little person outside of your womb.

We stayed in the hospital for 48 hours, due to me testing positive for Group B Strep at the end of my pregnancy. The pediatrician wanted to make sure she didn’t have signs of an infection from the Group B Strep. However, our little one was showing signs of jaundice, which is a yellow coloring of her skin. This is because the infant’s blood contains an excess of billirubin, which is a yellow colored pigment in the blood. Infant jaundice occurs because the babies liver isn’t mature enough to get rid of the billirubin in their blood system. This can occur in preterm babies, who were born before 38 weeks, babies who occurred bruising during birth, breastfed babies, blood type differences with mother and baby and occasionally it is due to an underlying disease. Our little one was born at 38 weeks and is a breastfed baby. From my understanding, all babies born in the hospital are to be checked at least every 8-12 hours while in the hospital and examined before discharge.

We were sent home on a Monday, with the assumption the billirubin levels would drop. The more she nurses, the more she will pass through her bowel movements we were told. We followed up with a pediatrician the following day. At that appointment we were then ordered to get blood work done on her, which was followed up by a phone call to head straight to the hospital. We also learned she lost over 1/2 a pound of weight. I started crying after my husband told me they wanted us to go admit her into the hospital. Was I doing something wrong? I think the worst part, my husband and I didn’t even notice the yellowing of her skin, until we took pictures of her.

Once admitted, we were set up in a similar postpartum room we stayed in after delivery. I was allowed to stay in the hospital with our little one, I know this isn’t the case for everyone. Our room was soon equipped with a bassinet with special lights attached to it, for photo therapy. The lights are to help break down the  molecules of the billirubin so that they may be excreted in an infants bowel movements. Our daughter was allowed to wear a diaper and she had protective eye mask to wear as well. As much of her skin needed to be exposed to the lights. The pediatrician required at least 12 hours under the photo therapy. I was only allowed to take her out from under the lights to nurse her or change her diaper. I think that was the hardest part. I wanted nothing more than to just hold my baby an make the jaundice magically disappear. I missed my husband and my oldest daughter. I wanted us to all be home together, snuggled in our bed with our newborn while we admired her.

Our little girl under her photo therapy lights 01/10/2017

The other struggle I faced, was learning I wasn’t making enough milk yet, so the pediatrician recommended we supplement with formula to help her have more bowel movements. This tore me up. I was so against using formula this time around. I want to nurse my baby, provide her with breast milk. Breast is best, right? Well, only if your breasts make milk! I agreed we would supplement, when my breast milk wasn’t coming in. I wanted this to pass, I was having a hard time dealing with being back in the hospital due to jaundice. We want to be home. We want our daughter to be healthy. The effects of jaundice not being taken care of are scary though, so we wanted to make sure we did all we could to get her well.

After a night in the hospital, our daughter’s billirubin levels were checked again. She had spent her 12 hours under photo therapy and 4 hours off. She was escorted to the nursery, poked and assessed. We were allowed to go home since her billirubin levels dropped from 21.5 to 14. The photo therapy lights worked, along with feeding her with breast milk and formula. We were released and told to follow up with a pediatrician that Friday.

We fell in love with the kindness of the pediatrician at the hospital and made the switch to her office, so that both our girls can be under her care. She has been so great to us. When we followed up, we were told our little one still has jaundice and this can go on for awhile. She also gained a bit of weight, not alot. Right after her appointment we had to go back to the hospital lab and get her levels checked again, to see if the billirubin had dropped. This was absolutely heart breaking. Listening to her scream and cry, just tears me up. We were informed that night that her billirubin dropped a bit, not a significant amount though. Her pediatrician said she was not worried at that time, gave me a list of warning signs and if ANY of those showed, we would need to take her to the hospital as soon as possible.

We have since gone back for weight checks once a week, to see if she is still gaining. I’ve learned she is gaining a bit slower than the average baby, she still has jaundice but we are seeing improvements. We will have her one month appointment next week, hopefully she has gained all the weight she lost back and then some. I’m also hoping all the jaundice has passed. I have continued to breastfeed our daughter, we are still having to supplement, due to my low milk supply (This tears me up on a daily basis). The important thing is, she is getting fed.