Jaundice in newborns

It is common for newborn babies to get jaundice. This means that the skin and the whites of the eyes turn yellow. For most people it goes away by itself within a couple of weeks, but some children may need treatment.


These are the symptoms of jaundice in a newborn child:

  • The child has yellow skin
  • The child has yellow eye whites
  • The child is tired
  • The child cannot eat properly.

Jaundice can usually be detected two to three days after the baby is born. Sometimes it may come after a few weeks. It may be more difficult to detect jaundice on the skin of children who have dark complexion, but it can be seen in the eye whites.

It is easier to see if the child has yellow skin and yellow eye whites in daylight. Light from lamps and fluorescent lamps can make it more difficult to see.

When and where should I seek care?

Contact hospital if the child’s skin and eye whites turn yellow after you have returned from BB, or if the child turns yellow after several weeks.

Contact one immediately on-call reception if the child also becomes lethargic and not able to eat enough. If closed, seek care at an emergency room.

What is the cause of jaundice?

When the baby is in the stomach, it needs more red blood cells in the blood than when it is born, for oxygenation. In conjunction with childbirth, the child’s body begins to break down the red blood cells so that they become adequate in number. When the red dye in the blood cells, the hemoglobin, breaks down, a yellow dye, bilirubin, is formed. It is the bilirubin that can make the baby’s skin and eyes whitish yellowish.

Secreted via the liver

Bilirubin occurs in low blood levels in all people and is excreted via the liver. Before giving birth, the mother’s liver takes care of the bilirubin from the fetus. The reason most newborn babies develop jaundice is that it takes a few days for their own liver to function well enough to manage the bilirubin as it is formed.

Jaundice in newborns is also called icterus.

Usually mild

Jaundice is usually mild, but if the bilirubin value quickly becomes too high it can lead to injuries. This is very uncommon in USA, since newborn babies are checked for jaundice and treated if needed.

May be caused by breast milk

Sometimes children who are breastfeeding can get jaundice at two to six weeks of age. It is called breast milk screening and is because substances in breast milk can affect the turnover of the bilirubin. It does not usually give high levels of bilirubin and usually passes by itself. You don’t need to stop breastfeeding.

On the other hand, the child may need to be examined to rule out that other diseases are behind.

What can I do for myself?

A child who has jaundice should be offered food eight to twelve times a day during the first few days. You who are breastfeeding will then also start breast milk production. It is just as good to give breastfeeding compensation if you are not breastfeeding. The important thing is that the child gets a lot of fluid during jaundice, as the bilirubin disappears from the body with the kiss and the poop.


Newborn children’s bilirubin value is examined at BB. The bilirubin value is checked first with a special meter on the skin. If the bilirubin value is increased, a blood test is also taken on the child. The values ​​are then followed up with further tests.


Usually, no treatment is needed, as the jaundice goes away within a couple of weeks. If the values ​​are too high, the child needs treatment with a special light on the skin, via a light lamp or light blanket. The light means that the bilirubin cannot cause harm, and then the body can do away with it at its own pace. The child can be treated at a children’s clinic or at BB. Sometimes the treatment can be done at home, if the child is doing well otherwise.


In the light treatment, the child is placed under a special light lamp or on a light blanket, also called the car form. When the child is lying on a light blanket, the child can often lie in an adult’s arms and even breastfeed or feed at the same time. The light treatment can last for a few to sometimes several days, but does not produce any side effects for the child. When treating the child with a light bulb, it is important that his eyes are constantly protected with an blindfold.

When light treatment does not help

Occasionally, the child may need more treatment. The child is then cared for in a neonatal ward where the staff specializes in caring for newborn children who are sick. If bilirubin levels rise very quickly and the light treatment does not help, the child may need to sunbathe more intensely with more light sources. Sometimes, but it is very unusual, the baby’s blood needs to be replaced in order for them to recover.

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