As a parent, there’s nothing scarier in the world than being told something is abnormal with your baby. No matter the circumstances, your first act is to completely panic, especially if your kiddo is a newborn and fresh from the womb. For many parents, that means being told their child suffers from jaundice, a yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes. Many may think this is uncommon, and wonder why babies have jaundice in the first place. But, as the Centers For Disease Control notes,about 60 percent of newborns are born with jaundice, making it more common than we think. But that does mean new moms and dads know everything there is to know about the medical condition. To get all the facts, I spoke with Carey Chronis, a pediatrician and host of public broadcasting’s Dr. Carey’s Baby Care, to have an expert weigh-in on jaundice and what it’s all about.
Jaundice may sound like a pretty scary term, but it’s very common in babies and rarely harmful. “As red blood cells are broken down, hemoglobin is released, and within the hemoglobin is bilirubin,” Carey says, explaining that the bilirubin is sent to the liver to recycled. “Unfortunately, as a baby, the liver isn’t working at full capacity and the bilirubin builds up in the body, causing a baby’s skin to look yellow.” Carey also notes that this can sometimes include yellowing of the eyes, but generally starts at an infant’s face and extends to the belly and chest as the bilirubin levels increase. To help ease parents’ fears, Carey shared five facts that all parents should know about jaundice in newborns and babies.