Jaundice in newborn babies is caused by the immature development of the liver at birth and is very common in babies at birth; it generally disappears spontaneously a few days after the birth.
New research shows that occasionally the milk from a mother may contain otherwise harmless substances that trigger off jaundice in a baby, though there is no harm to the baby and the jaundice disappears after a few days by itself.
Scientists have not yet managed to figure out exactly what the trigger is that causes motherâ€™s milk to set of the reaction, but they believe they are close to a significant finding.
The babies with jaundice have a yellow tinted skin or the whites of their eyes may also be tinted, it generally appears in premature babies or more specifically in boys. The condition may last from 2 to 5 days depending on how premature the baby is and whether it is breast-fed or not.
The jaundice starts spreading from the face and head to the chest and abdomen and at times spreads to the arms and legs. Other symptoms may occur such as itching, sleepiness, difficulty in suckling or feeding and dark urine.
One of the liverâ€™s functions is to eliminate bilirubin found in bile due to the breaking down of red blood cells, and in babies whose liver is still not properly developed there will be an accumulation of bilirubin, thus causing jaundice.
Sometimes babies are treated for jaundice by placing them under an ultraviolet lamp for one or two days, they are left naked with their eyes masked to protect them from the glare of the light. This stimulates the elimination of bilirubin, although there may be side effects such as diarrhoea.