Jaundice is yellowing of the skin. Its very common, and found in many newborns of all races. Two to three of every four newborns will get it.
Jaundice is caused by a buildup of bilirubin in the body. Bilirubin is a brownish-yellowish substance thats found in bile. Jaundice happens when a new babys liver takes a few days to get up to speed in removing bilirubin the right way.
Most cases of jaundice in newborns go away quickly, without any harm. But some cases of jaundice can be serious. This is because bilirubin levels can get too high and hurt the babys brain.
It is critical that parents, doctors, and nurses pay close attention to how yellow a babys skin is during his or her first few days of life. As a precaution, all babies should be checked when they are 3 to 5 days old. A blood test may be needed to make sure that the bilirubin level is not too high.
Call the doctor if:
- Your babys skin seems to be getting even more yellow
- The whites of your babys eyes are yellow
- Your baby is hard to wake, fussy, and/or not nursing or drinking formula well
- Your babys jaundice seems to be getting worse at any age
- Your babys jaundice lasts more than 3 weeks
Jaundice usually lasts through the first two weeks of a babys life. Sometimes it can be a bit longer in babies who are breastfed. If the bilirubin level gets too high, doctors order phototherapy. The baby is placed under special lights that break down the excess bilirubin deposited in the skin. Traditionally, this was always done in the hospital. Today, phototherapy can frequently be done at home.