Six Days Old: An Update

It is 1:34 AM on Saturday morning, marking the 6 day anniversary of Henry‘s entrance into the world. It’s high time you had an update.

Henry was diagnosed with jaundice while he was still in the hospital. Six out of ten babies suffer from jaundice, so it’s quite a common condition. Also, Henry was a vacuum extraction baby which caused significant bruising to the top of his head – this can increase the chances of getting jaundice. So we weren’t too surprised when he was diagnosed.

The treatment for jaundice is to use a colored light called phototherapy. This helps break down the extra material which is building up in the body that the liver can’t process. In order for this treatment to work, however, the baby has to eat and poop – only through pooping can he rid his body of the extraneous cells which cause the jaundice.

However, a side effect of jaundice is a sleepy, sluggish baby. So you are presented with a Catch-22. The jaundiced baby needs to eat (and poop) frequently, but the jaundiced baby is so sleepy that it’s hard to interest them in eating.

Add to that scenario a lack of experience with breastfeeding on both the mother and baby’s part, and you have a situation where it can be difficult and frustrating to feed the baby with no obvious solution to the jaundice.

That’s where we were a day ago. Henry learned how to nurse on Tuesday, thanks to Joan, an amazing nurse who spent hours with us teaching both me and the baby how to achieve a good latch. However, it was difficult to practice because he would fall asleep after only 5 minutes of nursing. On Wednesday we met with the lactation consultant, Spring, who explained the effects that the jaundice was having on our nursing. It was great to have this explained to us – kept me from taking it personally. She recommended buying a pump and attempting to bottle feed the baby. This would help me feel better physically (it did!), and it meant that Henry would get a steady supply of food, making him poop and relieving the jaundice.

Once we came home on Wednesday, we spent Wednesday night waking the baby every 2-3 hours to feed him expressed milk by bottle. He would fall right back asleep after feedings but at least he was getting food, which helped make me feel better. His doctor’s appointment on Thursday found his jaundice levels still high, so the doctor prescribed a “billy blanket” for the phototherapy and requested we keep his digestive system moving. Thursday night we went back to nursing, rather than bottle feeding, as I was beginning to be quite panicked about the effects of “nipple confusion.” He was not eating as much with breastfeeding as he was with bottle feeding, however, so he was not gaining weight and wasn’t pooping enough. We went back to the doctor on Friday. Henry’s jaundice levels were improving, though not in the clear. The doctor encouraged us to supplement nursing with bottle feeding expressed milk. Friday night (tonight) we combined both breastfeeding and bottle feeding and I think the little guy may have just turned a corner, thanks to the blanket and the consistent feeding!

As of 3 AM, he was actually fussy! This is a remarkable change from the endless sleeping he’s done since we met him. He appears to be waking himself about every two hours, presumably to eat. When he eats, he suckles for at least 10 minutes at a stretch, and in the past 12 hours has nursed for as long as 30 minutes at a stretch. He’s having his 6-8 wet diapers every day and his poops are starting to get that mustard yellow color.

We have an appointment on Sunday to get his jaundice levels checked. I am feeling hopeful that he’ll show marked improvement and we can take him off his billy blanket soon. I also think we’re getting the hang of breastfeeding and we can stop supplementing.


  1. Cristin’s avatar

    Wow! Way to go everyone for all the progress! Soon you can turn that billy blanket into a Billy or a Cayce blanket:)

  2. Ele’s avatar

    Hang in there Henry! (And Jeni!) I’m sorry you guys are having a tough time – it’s hard enough to adjust even when things are going smoothly. More than likely this will be one of the last times you celebrate his *fussiness*. 😉 We will keep checking on you!

  3. Monica’s avatar

    Sounds like you guys are getting through the jaundice very well. I’ve never seen a bili-blanket. I think it’s so good that you can use that at home. I think Ele’s right, too, that “sluggish” baby will be a distant memory pretty soon.