Jaundice in Newborn Babies: What It Is and Treatment Options

Jaundice in babies is a common condition that causes the whites of the eyes and the skin to appear yellow.

When there is a temporary buildup of a substance called bilirubin in a baby’s blood and the liver is unable to clear the excess, jaundice can occur. In very rare cases, it can be a sign of liver disease.

It can vary in severity – a mild condition usually becomes apparent 2-3 days following birth and improves within 7-10 days. At low to moderate levels, jaundice usually doesn’t cause problems but at high levels it can be harmful if left untreated. Treatment may include phototherapy (bright light treatment).

If you notice jaundice in your baby within the first 24 hours of birth or if they have a pale, white or light beige-coloured poo, contact your doctor or midwife straight away.

If your baby is jaundiced and looks sick, is trembling or jittery, has an unusual cry, is becoming increasingly yellow, is overly sleepy or slow to wake for feeds, isn’t feeding well, or is dehydrated (nappies aren’t wet), this may be cause for concern and you should contact your doctor or midwife urgently.

For more information on abnormal jaundice, see the KidsHealth website.