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Newborn Jaundice

Jaundice is the yellow color that you may see in your baby’s skin. Jaundice is the result of a chemical called “bilirubin” building up in the blood. This is due to the fact that newborns have extra red blood cells in their body and the normal breakdown of those cells leads to an increase in bilirubin. Newborns have difficulty processing the extra bilirubin because their livers are immature and have to get better at processing the bilirubin. This leads to the yellow color of the skin. Jaundice usually starts in the face and progresses down to the chest and legs.

Newborn Jaundice FAQ (click to open)

  • Indicated by a yellow color in your baby’s skin–may look like a suntan
  • Caused by high bilirubin count (build up of extra red blood cells due to immature liver)
  • Most common in the first 3-5 days of life
  • Usually resolves naturally within the first weeks of life
  • May cause increased drowsiness and difficulty feeding
  • Condition can be assessed and tracked by a simple procedure in the office

If your baby is jaundiced, often it is related to a combination of simple factors like not getting enough fluid as the mother’s milk supply comes in, breastfeeding issues, breast milk jaundice, or not feeding or voiding well. We encourage breastfeeding and can help you and your baby through this time without interrupting breastfeeding most of the time.

We may want to check the level of bilirubin if your baby has jaundice. The bilirubin levels usually are the highest during day 3-5 of life. Your doctor may follow the level to make sure it is decreasing over the course of the first week of life. Checking the bilirubin is done by a heel stick and obtaining a small amount of blood. We can check the bilirubin level right here in our office, so you do not have to go to a different lab or hospital for the test.

Generally, there is no need to treat jaundice. As your baby gets older, the liver is better able to process the bilirubin and the jaundice resolves. If the level is high, your doctor may need to start you on phototherapy which, uses light to help break down the bilirubin in your baby’s body. Your doctor will discuss this with you.

Call our office if:

  • Your baby’s skin turns yellower
  • The white part of your baby’s eyes is yellow
  • Your baby is not feeding well or has lost significant weight
  • Your baby is hard to wake for feeds
  • Your baby develops a fever
  • Your baby seems fussier or more irritable than normal
  • You have any questions at all about your baby’s color or the way that they are feeding or acting