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Common Baby Health Questions

Few things in life inspire such anticipation and preparation as having a baby. Nesting in the nursery. Stocking up on sleepers. Picking the perfect name (sorry, Uncle Ignatius). But many a new parent has found themselves standing over the bassinet with their fresh-from-the-womb babe, thinking, "Now what?" That confusion is compounded when your precious little one isn't feeling all that great, so here's a helpful primer on some of the most common concerns new parents may face those first few months, and how to deal.

Help! Why is my baby turning yellow?

That mild yellowish cast to baby's skin is most likely jaundice, and don't worry, more than half of all babies develop it. Newborns often have more red blood cells than they need, yet their livers aren't ramped up to break down and eliminate these extra cells. This creates a buildup of bilirubin, a by-product of those red blood cells (you may notice it in your own skin when a bruise turns yellow), causing baby's skin, and sometimes her eyes, to appear a little sunny.

Spot the Signs

The condition peaks three to five days after birth, but since newborns are usually discharged from the hospital after a day or two, it may not show up until you and baby are home. Here's a simple test: Jaundice progresses from head to toe, so press your finger on your baby's nose or forehead. When you release it, the skin should look like a paler shade of her usual skin color. If there's an underlying yellow tint or you can't be certain whether there is jaundice, call your doctor . Your pediatrician will also look for signs of jaundice during her first well-baby checkup, which is why it's so important to make this visit within a few days after your baby's discharge from the hospital.


Find a Fix

In many cases bilirubin can be eliminated through urine and stools, so it's important to make sure baby feeds well and frequently. If her system still needs a little boost, phototherapy uses special light that helps move the bilirubin out of the skin and tissues and into the urine and stools, hence the spotlight aimed at newborns. Since breastfed infants may have trouble feeding initially, which means less urine and fewer stools, they're more prone to jaundice; if you're having difficulty nursing, contact your pediatrician or a lactation consultant.

Dial the Doc

In extremely severe cases, a very high bilirubin level can cause brain damage, so be on the lookout for:
• Any sign of jaundice in the first 24 hours of life
• A yellow skin color that's spreading to the stomach, arms and legs
• A fever higher than 100 degrees Fahrenheit taken rectally
• Jaundice along with signs of poor feeding or dehydration, including fussiness and unusual sleepiness
• Fewer than four to six wet diapers a day, which could allow further build-up of bilirubin