Jaundice in the newborn, what should I know?

In the first days of a baby's life, the fears and doubts of his parents are so wide that any symptom or unknown sign can generate anguish. Jaundice in the newborn is considered a normal process, although it requires supervision so that it does not reach extreme cadres.

In this article you can find adequate information to know the reasons for jaundice in the newborn, in addition to some advice on how to act to prevent the picture from getting worse.

Why does jaundice appear in the newborn?

Jaundice is defined as a yellowing of the skin and mucous membranes. Its cause is bilirubin, a substance that appears when the red blood cell is degraded. The way to know the exact values ​​of it is by blood analysis.

But yellowing in the baby is not considered a serious situation if the bilirubin levels are not extremely high. When levels are very high in blood, we talk about hyperbilirubinemia and it requires hospital monitoring and follow-up.

After two or three days of birth, it is normal to see a yellow coloration on the skin of the newborn. The liver is the organ responsible for eliminating excess bilirubin, but it costs a bit to start working after birth.

Read also: Bilirubin high in blood

What are the best care for the newborn?

Once we know that jaundice in the newborn does not have to be a serious affectation, we must know how to act to reduce as much as possible this situation worsens. For this, there are Basic care that all parents can perform:

  • Monitor the adequate feeding of the newborn. If the baby is fed with breastfeeding, it is more complicated to ensure the intake of food. There is a jaundice associated with breastfeeding that is rare and usually appears after a week of life. Only the pediatrician, after assessment of the newborn, can indicate if it is necessary to withdraw breastfeeding for one or two days.
  • Home phototherapy. Phototherapy is the technique used in neonatal units to treat hyperbilirubinemia. If an income is not required, it can be done at home. Place the newborn for 10 minutes a day in sunlight, with the diaper on and covering his eyes. Choose a solar hour that is not harmful, if possible before 9 in the morning.

Identify possible situations of risk

As we have previously commented, the most frequent is to see jaundice in the newborn that is not associated with serious situations. But It is important that we know certain signs that need a medical assessment:

  • Early onset of jaundice in the newborn. If the coloration occurs from the first day of life, the pediatrician will request a blood test to be able to assess the exact result.
  • Jaundice in the newborn remains after two weeks of life. It is the time the liver needs to perform its functions well and eliminate excesses.

Complications of jaundice in the newborn

When blood bilirubin exceeds extreme values, can be deposited in brain cells, altering the metabolism and function of neurons. This situation is called kernicterus.

To avoid this situation, you should request a consultation with the pediatrician when a yellowing of the baby after a week of life.

The pediatrician will perform the appropriate tests to assess bilirubin levels and, if the values ​​are close to extreme parameters, it will prescribe the hospital admission and a treatment with phototherapy and care in the neonatology unit.

You may be interested: Hyperbilirubinemia in the newborn

What does hospital phototherapy entail?

A newborn who needs phototherapy will need a hospital admission for several days. Nowadays, most hospitals allow parents to be with their children 24 hours a day, although it is recommended that they rest at home.

The nurses of the neonatology units are prepared to perform the basic care required by newborns with hyperbilirubinemia. It is important to follow the recommendations of specialized personnel.

If you are breastfeeding, it is recommended that you do not withdraw. It is advisable to follow the instructions of the hospital professionals in relation to the feeding of the newborn.


Newborn skin changes during the first days of life and jaundice is one of the most frequent. It is necessary to receive adequate information about the basic care of each of the frequent alterations.