My Child Has... Article

My Child Has...

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Jaundice of the Newborn: Brief Version


What is jaundice?

Jaundice is when your new baby has yellow looking skin. The whites of your baby's eyes may be yellow.

This happens for these reasons:

  • Normal jaundice. The baby's liver just isn't ready yet to get rid of the yellow pigment called bilirubin on its own. This type of jaundice starts when the baby is 2 or 3 days old. It goes away by the time your baby is 2 weeks old. This happens in about half of all babies.
  • Breast-feeding jaundice happens when your baby does not drink enough breast milk.
  • Breast-milk jaundice does not happen very often. It happens when the mother's milk has a certain substance that causes jaundice. It starts when the baby is 4 to 7 days old. It may last 3 to 10 weeks.
  • Rh or ABO problems. This is a serious type of jaundice. It most often starts the first day of life.

How can I help my baby with breast-feeding or breast-milk jaundice?

Breast-feed more often. This can help lower the bilirubin.

  • Nurse your baby every 1-and-1/2 to 2-and-1/2 hours.
  • If your baby sleeps more than 4 hours at night, awaken him for a feeding.

Call your baby's doctor right away if:

  • You think your baby is not getting enough fluid.
  • Your baby has jaundice during the first 24 hours of life.
  • Your baby looks deep yellow or orange.
  • Your baby hasn't urinated in more than 8 hours.
  • Your baby gets a fever.
  • Your baby also starts to look or act sick.

Call your baby's doctor during office hours if:

  • Your baby looks deep yellow or orange.
  • Your baby is not getting enough milk or gaining weight well.
  • Your baby has fewer than three good-sized BMs per day.
  • Your baby has fewer than six wet diapers per day.
  • The jaundice is not gone by day 14.
  • You have other concerns or questions.

Written by B.D. Schmitt, MD, author of "Your Child's Health," Bantam Books.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2007-04-19
Last reviewed: 2010-06-02

This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a health care professional.

Copyright © 1996-2014 The Children's Mercy Hospital