Jaundice is the yellow colour seen in the skin of many newborns. Any baby can get jaundice. Your baby should be checked for jaundice in the hospital and again after leaving the hospital.
Jaundice happens when a chemical called bilirubin builds up in the baby’s blood. During pregnancy the mother’s liver removes the chemical from the baby. After birth the baby’s liver must do it. In some babies the liver may not be developed enough to get rid of the bilirubin. When too much builds up in the baby’s body, the skin and white of the eyes may look yellow. This is called jaundice. If jaundice goes untreated for to long it can cause brain damage, cerebral palsy and hearing loss. It also causes problems with vision and teeth and sometimes can cause intellectual disabilities.
Signs & Symptoms
Jaundice usually appears first on the face and then moves to the chest, belly, arms and legs. The whites of the eyes can look yellow.
Tell your healthcare provider immediately if your baby:
- is very yellow or orange
- is hard to wake up or will not sleep at all
- is not breastfeeding or sucking from a bottle well
- is very fussy
- does not have enough wet or dirty diapers.
There is no way to prevent jaundice. It just needs to be noticed, monitored and treated if necessary.
If the bilirubin level is not too high, your baby might not need any treatment. Your healthcare provider may suggest that you breastfeed or bottle feed your baby more often. If the bilirubin level is very high or is getting higher very quickly, your baby may need light therapy. Ask your healthcare provider about this. In very severe cases your baby may need a blood transfusion.