Jaundice in Newborns

Jaundice in Newborns

Jaundice is common with newborn babies though most will only get it mildly. It causes the skin (and sometimes the whites of the eyes) to have a yellow tinge due to excess bilirubin in the blood.


Bilirubin is passed through the liver, due to prematurity of their tiny livers, your babies are unable to cope with this.


It will usually appears 2 to 3 days after birth, the yellow tinge will start from the head and work its way down so if you notice anything go to your doctor for a check-up. You should get your baby checked over in the first few days of birth anyway.


One thing you can be sure of, its not painful and is not a disease but a symptom from high levels of bilirubin in the blood called hyperbilirubinemia.


Other Types

There are other reasons of cause:

  • Caused by Preterm Birth is common as preemie babies are even less ready to effectively excrete the bilirubin. It’s even more common with multiples due to the increased chance of a preterm birth.
  • Caused from Breastfeeding sometimes occurs when your baby is not getting enough milk, possibly due to the fact that your milk has not yet come in. If your baby has at least six wet diapers a day, the baby poop is turning from dark green to yellowish and seems satisfied after each feed, then he/she is feeding well.Sometimes but rarely it is the breast milk itself.
  • Different Blood Types, when the mother and baby(s) blood type is different, the mothers body may produce antibodies that attack the baby’s red blood cells causing incompatibility hyperbilirubinemia. This only affects pregnant women with Rh-negative blood with a baby who has Rh-postive blood.



Examination of the complexion and whites of the eyes in newborns is the first step, it can also be diagnosed through assessing the levels of bilirubin which involves a blood test. A very small amount of blood is taken and results are usually known within a few hours.

Symptoms of Severe Jaundice


If you notice any of the following symptoms on top of the apparent yellow tinge, contact your healthcare professional as soon as possible:

  • The jaundice is getting worse and moving further down the body, especially when it’s approaching the knees or lower. Or when the color is more intense than before.
  • When your baby is arching their neck or body backwards.
  • Your infant is hard to wake up.
  • Comforting your baby is difficult.
  • Has a high-pitched cry

How is it Treated?


Neonatal Jaundice is treated with a blue light called phototherapy which helps break down the bilirubin. Phototherapy works with a process called isomerization that changes the bilirubin water that can be passed without getting trapped in the liver.


A lamp is placed overhead and baby’s eyes are covered for protection.


Breastfeeding Frequently
Increasing the number of feeds per day for your baby will help flush the bilirubin out and can also help with prevention.


Treatment for Incompatibility Hyperbilirubinemia
This is nearly always preventable and is the best source of treatment with the use of immune globulins called RhoGam through an injection.


If the baby has already been affected, phototherapy and hydration is the course of treatment.

When only mildly affected there may be no treatment required.

What is Bilirubin?


Bilirubin is naturally produced from the breakdown of red blood cells. These cells contain haemoglobin which makes blood red and carries oxygen around the body. It then passes through the liver getting rid of it through the intestine then passes through their stool which also gives poop it’s brown color.


Newborn babies have a higher turnover of red blood cells than adults do, as a newborns liver is still developing it may not be able to remove the bilirudin sufficiently.

Have you got any further questions, then check out our FAQs for a Twin Pregnancy


Alternatively we have prepared a some helpful tips and advice on the care of your twins – but there are a number of other helpful tips we have prepared to help you with the raising of your twins.

Scroll to Top