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What is Jaundice?


Dr. McGuire

About 50 percent of babies will have a condition called newborn jaundice, which is the yellowing of baby’s skin. Jaundice is a symptom of a condition called hyperbilirubinemia.

Newborns have higher amounts of red blood cells than children or adults. When your baby is inside your uterus, he depends on the placenta to give him the oxygen he needs. Because he doesn’t breathe inside your uterus, your baby makes more and larger red blood cells to help carry enough oxygen to his muscles and tissues. Once your baby is born, he no longer needs these extra red blood cells, so his liver destroys them. One of the waste products from the breakdown of red blood cells is something called bilirubin. Bilirubin is removed from your baby’s blood by his liver and then removed from his body in his urine and stool. 

Because your baby’s liver is immature at birth, it may become overworked, and the extra bilirubin can make his skin and eyes look yellow. Newborn jaundice usually appears on the second or third day of a baby’s life.

To make sure that the baby does not have problems with bilirubin, most babies are examined 48 to 72 hours after birth to check the bilirubin levels. In most cases, a baby’s body will remove the bilirubin itself, but if your baby’s skin gets more yellow after you go home, please be sure to let your pediatrician or family doctor know.