Jaundice is very common in newborn babies. Up to 80% of newborn babies will become jaundiced two or three days after birth. Jaundice reaches its peak at about four days of life and then gradually disappears in most babies by the time they are two weeks old. Jaundice does not necessarily mean your baby is ill.
Jaundice is caused by your baby having an increased level of bilirubin in their blood. It is important that jaundice is monitored to ensure that the bilirubin level does not get too high. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has published guidelines on neonatal jaundice and these give clear guidelines to professionals as to national treatment recommendations. Read the information for parents from NICE here.
Sometimes jaundice continues after the baby is 14 days old in a full-term baby and 21 days in a premature baby. It is vital that the following is carried out:
Check the colour of your baby’s stools (poo)
- The stools of a breast fed baby should be green/daffodil yellow colour
- The stools of a bottle fed baby should be green/English mustard colour
Check the colour of your baby’s urine (wee)
- The urine of a newly born baby should be colourless
If your baby’s urine is yellow and/or the stools are pale this can indicate liver disease and you must report this to your midwife, health visitor or doctor. Do not wait until after 14 days if you notice this before.
What needs to be done?
It is important that your baby has a blood test called a split bilirubin blood test. This test measures the ratio of the conjugated and unconjugated bilirubin levels in your baby’s blood. If the conjugated fraction is greater than 20% of the total bilirubin it indicates liver disease. Your baby should be referred to a specialist paediatric liver unit for further investigation.
Download CLDF's leaflet: Jaundice in the new born baby (PDF, 94 KB)
This leaflet explains baby jaundice in more detail, prolonged jaundice and what you need to do.
Please visit CLDF's main website to find out more about how the liver works.
Page last updated: January 2011