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The Signs and Symptoms of Jaundice in a Newborn Baby

Updated on July 27, 2012
Newborn infant undergoing phototherapy to treat neonatal jaundice
Newborn infant undergoing phototherapy to treat neonatal jaundice | Source

The baby has arrived - but he's yellow?

Well my long awaited little Zachary Alan has arrived - Grandma and Grandpa's special little package of joy: our very first grand-baby!! Needless to say, we are overjoyed, and today, also worried as little Zach has a severe case of jaundice.

I wasn't really very worried when I found out he had jaundice, as I know jaundice is pretty common in newborns (about 6 out of 10 newborns develop jaundice) - but became more worried today when I found out his case was getting worse instead of better.

Being the always observant researcher in the family - and since Zach's mom can't do the research herself (she is still in the hospital) , I decided to learn more about the signs and symptoms of jaundice in newborns, and what exactly causes jaundice in babies.

The symptoms of jaundice in a newborn baby

The main symptom is a yellow color of the skin. The yellow color is best seen right after gently pressing a finger onto the skin. The color sometimes begins on the face and then moves down to the chest, belly area, legs, and soles of the feet.

Sometimes, infants with significant jaundice have extreme tiredness and poor feeding.

In Zach's case, the symptoms did not show up till 2 days after his birth, when his eyes and skin had a slightly yellowish tinge to them. As the days have gone by the yellow tinge has become more pronounced and he actually looks more orange than yellow now.

Jaundice is caused by the build-up of a pigment, called bilirubin, in the blood. In most cases, jaundice goes away without treatment and does not harm the baby.

A common reason for the build-up of bilirubin is that the liver of a newborn is immature.

If you are a mother of a newborn baby

If you are the mother of a newborn, there are some important things to watch for in your newborn baby. Although some infants show signs of jaundice before they leave the hospital, like Zachary did, some newborns may not get jaundice till after they go home:

Jaundice occurs in about 6 out of every 10 newborns. Premature babies (those born before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy) are more likely to develop jaundice than full-term babies.

Occasionally, babies develop severe jaundice. Without treatment, this can pose a risk of permanent brain damage. (Bilirubin can deposit in the brain when blood levels are very high.)

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all babies be checked for jaundice before they leave the hospital after birth. Babies should be checked again by a provider at 3 to 5 days of age. This is the time when bilirubin levels are usually highest.

So if you are in the hospital, or at home with the baby, and notice signs of yellowing skin or eyes, make sure you tell your baby's doctor. In Zach's case it was diagnosed in the hospital, and treatment with special lights (called photo-therapy) has begun. He is now on day 3 of treatment, and unfortunately, he has not responded well to treatment, which is unusual. Most babies respond well and are over jaundice within 1-2 weeks. Some babies like Zach may need more intensive treatment.

(Dorsi Diaz is a freelance writer/publisher here on the Internet)


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  • Dorsi profile image

    Dorsi Diaz 5 years ago from The San Francisco Bay Area

    Thank you Zoya for reading - just an oversight on my part!

  • profile image

    Zoya jarrar 5 years ago

    Hey dorsi I also said the same thing but dint reply me

  • profile image

    Zoya jarrar 6 years ago

    Very informative its real good

  • Dorsi profile image

    Dorsi Diaz 6 years ago from The San Francisco Bay Area

    Thank you Rakesh!

  • profile image

    Rakesh 6 years ago

    Nice and very informative article.

    Keep up the good work of posting such articles.

  • Dorsi profile image

    Dorsi Diaz 6 years ago from The San Francisco Bay Area

    @Rafi) Good luck and congratulations on your new baby! I'm sure he will be just fine!

  • profile image

    Rafi Khader Sheriff 6 years ago

    My baby is born just three days ago. Fourth day, He was affected by Jaundice. His eyes are so Yellowish. Now he is under blue lights(Called Phototheraphy)with IV Fluid.

  • profile image

    umesh 7 years ago

    thanks thanks a lot for the information

  • Dorsi profile image

    Dorsi Diaz 8 years ago from The San Francisco Bay Area

    Thanks everyone for stopping by and reading about yellow jaundice in newborns and babies. An interesting side note here is since writing this article, I have actually started working at a local hospital taking photo sessions of newborn babies. I have started to recognize the symptoms of jaundice in a baby sometimes even before the doctors have diagnosed a baby. When doing photos I sometimes notice a slightly yellowish tinge to babies skin...and this can be yellow jaundice. Yellow jaundice is treatable however.

  • profile image

    pardeep  8 years ago

    my daughter is suffering fom jaundice and she is hospitalized.plz pray for her

  • terenceyap07 profile image

    terenceyap07 9 years ago from Singapore


    Condratulations Dorsi!!! Mat this be the first granchild of many more to come!!!

  • RGraf profile image

    Rebecca Graf 9 years ago from Wisconsin

    My son had jaundice and had the light blanket around him for several weeks. We called me our nightlight.

  • Moon Daisy profile image

    Moon Daisy 9 years ago from London

    Congratulations on your first grandchild, he's very gorgeous! Sorry to hear about his jaundice, and I hope he starts responding to the treatment very soon. That's an interesting hub and I'm sure it'll be very useful to plenty of new mums and grandparents.