Jaundice occurs in 60% of full term babies and 80% of pre term babies within the first week.
In most cases this is normal but occasionally it can be a sign of other more serious health problems.
What causes jaundice?
Most babies are born with more red blood cells than they need for life outside the womb. When these cells break down after birth, they produce a yellow pigment called bilirubin, which circulates in the blood. When bilirubin reaches the liver, it is changed into a form that can be transported to the intestines and passed out of the body in the baby’s poo. However, a newborn baby’s liver cannot process all the bilirubin at once. Excess bilirubin is deposited in the skin, muscles, and mucous membranes of the body, which look yellowish or a golden colour.
It is very important to let your LMC/doctor know if your baby has dark coloured wee or pale coloured poo. It’s also important to see your doctor if your baby has jaundice at 2–3 weeks, especially if she/he isn’t thriving. A blood test can confirm that there isn’t an underlying problem. Breastfeeding should continue.