The fact that the skin of a newborn is often jaundiced is because of the substance bilirubin. In case of a high bilirubin content, the baby can be drowsy. The baby then also doesn’t drink as well.
Normally, a baby starts to look jaundiced after 24 hours. This increases during the first days, with a peak around four days after the birth. After this, the yellow shade gradually disappears. Usually nothing more can be seen of it after two weeks. In children who are breastfed, this can take a little longer. Jaundice cannot be prevented, but it is important that the baby drinks enough. This is because sufficient moisture ensures that the bilirubin is drained away.
If necessary, the bilirubin content in the blood can be measured. If the baby is drowsy, looks very jaundiced or the jaundice follows a different pattern than described above, then a blood test is necessary. On the basis of this, treatment will or will not be initiated. Because light breaks down the yellowness, a baby can receive phototherapy if necessary. This is when the baby is placed under a special lamp in the hospital.
Which babies have more chance of looking jaundiced?
- Premature babies
- Babies who were bruised or got hematomas during delivery
- If an older brother or sister was also jaundiced, needed phototherapy or was given an exchange transfusion
- If there are hereditary illnesses that can increase breakdown of blood, such as spherocytosis and G6PD deficiency
- If the blood type of mother and baby don’t match (blood group or rhesus isoimmunization)
- When should you get professional help?
- If the baby is already looking jaundiced within 24 hours after the birth
- If a baby looks jaundiced and is drowsy, won’t wake up for a feed or drinks poorly
- If a baby is still jaundiced after three weeks
- If a baby looks jaundiced and has dark urine and/or decolorized stools.