Baby Jaundice: Understanding, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

Baby Jaundice


Baby jaundice is a common condition that affects newborns, causing yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes. It is usually harmless and clears up on its own after 10-14 days. However, it’s essential for parents to understand the different types of jaundice, potential causes, and when to seek medical attention.

Understanding Baby Jaundice

Jaundice in newborn babies is primarily caused by the breakdown of extra red blood cells, which produces a substance called bilirubin. This bilirubin is usually converted into a water-soluble form and expelled from the body through stools. However, since a newborn’s liver is still developing, the conversion process may take a few days, resulting in a buildup of fat-soluble bilirubin, leading to yellowish discoloration of the skin and eyes, known as physiological jaundice. In some instances, jaundice can be a sign of underlying health problems, such as liver disorders or infections, known as pathological jaundice.

Recognizing Jaundice in Your Baby

For most babies, jaundice is harmless and resolves with frequent feeding. However, parents should be aware of certain signs that may indicate higher bilirubin levels requiring medical attention. If your baby is less than 24 hours old, excessively sleepy, uninterested in feeding, has pale chalky stools, or dark urine, it’s crucial to report these symptoms to your doctor immediately.

Diagnostic Tests for Baby Jaundice

To check the severity of jaundice in newborns, doctors may use a transcutaneous bilirubinometer, a non-invasive device held against the skin to measure bilirubin levels in babies born at more than 35 weeks gestation and older than 24 hours. If the bilirubin level is high, or the baby is born premature or within 24 hours, a blood test will be conducted to measure bilirubin levels accurately. Timely diagnosis is vital to determine the appropriate treatment.

Treating Jaundice in Babies

The most common treatment for jaundice in babies with high bilirubin levels is phototherapy. Phototherapy involves placing the baby under a special light that helps break down bilirubin and aids in its elimination from the body. In some rare cases, a baby may require a blood transfusion or exchange transfusion, which will be discussed by the doctor with the parents. During phototherapy, the baby may be placed under a single phototherapy lamp or on a fibreoptic phototherapy pad, allowing parents to move the baby for feeding. If bilirubin levels are extremely high, continuous multiple phototherapy may be necessary. In such cases, expressing breast milk for feeding can be supported by healthcare providers.

Understanding Prolonged Jaundice

Prolonged jaundice is when jaundice persists beyond 14 days of age (21 days if born before 37 weeks). While it’s often associated with breastfeeding and considered normal, it should still be investigated by a healthcare professional. If your baby experiences prolonged jaundice, it’s essential to inform your doctor, who will refer your baby for further tests to rule out any underlying conditions.


Baby jaundice is a common and usually harmless condition in newborns. By understanding its causes, recognizing the symptoms, and seeking timely medical attention when necessary, parents can ensure their baby receives the appropriate care and treatment. Always remember to consult your healthcare provider for personalized advice and guidance regarding your baby’s health and well-being.