Jaundice in Newborns


What is newborn jaundice? Newborn jaundice is excess bilirubin in your newborn's blood. Bilirubin is a yellow substance found in your newborn's red blood cells. Excess bilirubin will cause your newborn's skin and the whites of his eyes to turn yellow. Jaundice is also called hyperbilirubinemia.

What causes newborn jaundice? Increased bilirubin occurs when your newborn's body breaks down old red blood cells as it should, but cannot remove the bilirubin. Jaundice is common in newborns.

What increases the risk for newborn jaundice?

How is newborn jaundice diagnosed? Your newborn's caregiver will check your newborn's skin and eyes. Tell the caregiver how long your newborn has had signs of jaundice. Tell him if you or your newborn have a blood disease, different blood types, or if any siblings also had jaundice. Tell the caregiver if your newborn was bruised during birth or has trouble breastfeeding. Your newborn may also need blood tests to check for bilirubin and to measure red blood cell levels. These tests will show if he has or is at risk of developing jaundice.

How is newborn jaundice treated? Your newborn will likely be treated in the hospital. You will be able to stay with him so you can continue to breastfeed. Treatment for jaundice includes the following:

What are the risks of newborn jaundice? Too much bilirubin in your newborn's blood may lead to brain damage. The damage may cause disorders such as hearing loss and cerebral palsy. Rarely, severe jaundice may lead to breathing problems, seizures that cannot be controlled, and coma. Severe jaundice may be life-threatening.

How can I help decrease my newborn's risk for jaundice? Breastfeed your baby as early and as often as possible. You may use formula along with breast milk if you do not produce enough breast milk alone. Look for signs of thirst in your baby, such as lip smacking and restlessness. Try to breastfeed 8 to 12 times daily for the first few days to boost your milk supply. Ask your caregiver for help if you have trouble breastfeeding.

When should I follow up with my newborn's pediatrician? You may need to follow up with a pediatrician 2 to 3 days after you leave the hospital, following your baby's birth. Ask for a specific follow-up time. Your newborn may need more blood tests to check his bilirubin levels. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Where can I find more information?

When should I contact my newborn's pediatrician? Contact your newborn's pediatrician if:

When should I seek immediate care? Seek care immediately or call 911 if:


You have the right to help plan your baby's care. Learn about your baby's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your baby's caregivers to decide what care you want for your baby. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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