Jaundice: Our Experience

If you’ve read Q’s birth story, then you’ll remember that my labour was induced and he was born via forceps.  He had his paediatric checks at 24 hours and the paediatrician was happy with everything.  During the check, he briefly mentioned that Q looked a little jaundiced and it stuck with me.  O had suffered with jaundice too, so I knew it was something that needed to be kept an eye on.

The day after he was born, I was pushing for us to be discharged.  I’d been in the hospital for four long days and O needed me at home.  I felt well and reassured I would be looked after as I had regular appointments with my consultant to check my recovery.  I brought up the paediatrician’s fleeting comment during my discharge discussion with the midwife.  She said it hadn’t been noted in Q’s file.  Strange, I thought.  Why did he mention it then?  She asked me if I thought he was jaundiced – I hadn’t a clue! I’m not around babies every day, but thought he was a similar colour to my arms which are a little tanned.  I requested that an SBR test be carried out to determine the jaundice levels.  The results came back well within normal range and the midwife essentially told us not to worry.  Fab.  We were eventually discharged later that day and we went home.


The next day we had to make an appointment up at Carlisle hospital for Q’s tongue tie to be snipped, and then back home for our community midwife appointment.  Add into that the school run and what a mad rush that day was!  The midwife took another blood sample from Q via a heel prick to send off to the labs for testing.  Well, because it was so late in the day, she asked hubs if he would take it to the hospital.  He did and we expected a phone call later that evening to let us know the results.  But they never rang.  We just presumed it was nothing to worry about so we carried on as normal.

On Saturday, Q was three days old.  Another community midwife came to our house and found out his results.  They were borderline.  We were to have another test done at hospital and potentially stay in overnight for treatment.

Holy moly.  I hadn’t prepared myself for this.  I didn’t even know what jaundice was aside from a baby being a tanned-yellowy colour.  I immediately got onto the NHS website and read up on it.  You see, O hadn’t needed to go for treatment and so I just took the midwives advice to keep in the sun and feed regularly.  Essentially, jaundice is caused by high levels of bilirubin in the blood that the liver can’t break down quick enough.  It’s worse in babies that have experienced bruising, usually caused by intervention tools like forceps.  Breastfeeding can also prolong the effects.  I didn’t realise how serious it can be if it’s not treated.  Without being caught and treated, it can cause permanent brain damage.  Whoa.

Lo and behold, the bilirubin levels had more than doubled since his first test and we were back on the ward we had been discharged from less than 48 hours earlier.  Q was given six hours of intense phototherapy before being taken to Special Care for more tests.  The paediatrician ordered another six hours before another heel-prick test.  Then a further six hours before Q could come out from under his mini sun-bed.  My milk had come in and so I expressed a little, as well as breastfeeding and Q had his first bottle of expressed milk.

The eye mask was a nightmare to keep on, but it seemed to be working.  The awful yellow tan he had very quickly developed was suddenly more of a pinkish skin tone – hurray!  The levels had been brought down to what they were at his first test.  We were free to go home and the midwives would continue to test him every couple of days to make sure it didn’t rebound.

At two weeks old, we were asked to attend the children’s ward for further tests.  Q’s jaundice hadn’t gone and was still at a moderate level, albeit below the ‘line on the chart’ that required treatment.  The midwife was pretty sure that the only reason it hadn’t gone completely was because I was breastfeeding.  If he’d been on formula, it most likely would have gone by now.  We had to wait for his blood taken and provide a urine sample for tests.  Have you ever tried to catch a baby boys’ pee in a pot?!  Nightmare!  The results came back and they were still high so we had to repeat this the following week.

At three weeks old, we went back to the children’s ward and repeated the process.  More blood from my mini-human pin cushion, aka Q, and a urine sample.  This time, the results came back at much less than the week before and the paediatrician confirmed they were happy to let us go.  The levels were decreasing, albeit slowly, and they were happy to call it what is known as ‘breastfeeding jaundice’.

It was mentioned at his six week check that he still had a touch of jaundice, but it had completely gone by the time he was two months old.  I can’t believe that I didn’t bother to find out what it was when O was small, but then again I probably would have worried unnecessarily.  Being back in the hospital, in the same room, was the last place I wanted to be but it was all worth it in the long run.

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