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Signs of Jaundice

Babies are generally sturdier than you might think, but health problems sometimes do arise. You should know the signs of jaundice. This is a common, temporary condition that develops because a newborn's body sometimes is not able to fully clear bilirubin. Bilirubin is a yellow pigment that is normally cleared by the liver and removed in the stool. Almost half of all babies show some signs of jaundice.

Image of baby

What to Watch For

If a baby has developed jaundice, the skin or whites of the eyes turn yellow. It usually shows up 3 to 4 days after birth. Premature babies are especially at risk.

What to Do

Image of baby breastfeeding

Always call your baby’s doctor or health care provider if you notice any of the signs of jaundice. In some cases, jaundice may be severe and may threaten a baby’s health.Your health care provider may recommend the following:

  • Breastfeeding your baby often, at least 8 to 10 times every 24 hours. If you use formula, discuss feeding with your doctor.

  • Treating jaundice with phototherapy (treatment with special lights) at home or in the hospital. Your doctor can tell you more about phototherapy if it is needed.


When to Call the Doctor

Call your baby’s doctor or health care provider if you notice any of the following:

  • In an infant under 3 months old, a rectal temperature of 100.4°F (38.0°C) or higher

  • A yellowish appearance to baby’s skin or to the whites of baby’s eyes


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