New Mom's Guide To Jaundice

The term jaundice sounds like a scary disease, but it's actually rather common in newborns. Handle baby's jaundice with ease.

newborn baby

What is jaundice?

According to the Mayo Clinic website, "Infant jaundice is a yellow discoloration in a newborn baby's skin and eyes. Infant jaundice occurs because the baby's blood contains an excess of bilirubin, a yellow-colored pigment of red blood cells."

Jaundice generally occurs between baby's second and fourth days of life and is defined by a yellowish hue of the skin and eyes. It tends to be noticeable in baby's face first but can also appear on his tummy, arms and legs.

Why do babies get jaundice?

Jaundice occurs because a baby's liver is not yet mature enough to properly rid his bloodstream of bilirubin. It is fairly common and often occurs in babies born before 38 weeks of gestation as well as breastfed babies. Rarely, jaundice can be a result of a disease so make sure to speak with your doctor about your baby's jaundice.

Find out if your baby has jaundice

If your baby is born in a hospital, the doctors will examine him for jaundice (among other things) before he (and you) are discharged. However, Mayo Clinic suggests baby should be checked for jaundice between three and 12 days of life, so if you and baby are discharged before 72 hours, you should make a follow up appointment with your pediatrician within two days of leaving the hospital, which is usually recommended anyway.

Warning signs

Get baby to the doctor right away if baby seems listless or is difficult to wake, his skin or whites of the eyes gets increasingly more yellow, his tummy, arms and legs become yellowish, he isn't eating much or isn't gaining weight or his jaundice lasts longer than three weeks.

How to get rid of baby's jaundice

In most cases, baby's jaundice will go away on his own. However, your doctor may suggest putting baby in indirect sunlight (like setting him near a sunny window during nap time) to help get rid of the jaundice. If baby has a severe case, doctors will need to examine him to explore possible causes and treatment.

More on newborn health and development

Newborn screening tests can save both lives and money
How to get help with your newborn
Newborn safety in the hospital

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