What is Neonatal Jaundice?

Jaundice is a common and usually harmless condition in newborn babies that causes the yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes.

It is caused by a build-up of bilirubin- a chemical that occurs naturally in your baby’s blood. Newborn babies are slower at removing bilirubin from their blood but when they are two weeks old their livers are better at removing the bilirubin then so the symptoms of Jaundice should be improved by then.

Breastfed babies are more likely to get Jaundiced then formula fed babies and that is still unknown as to why that happens.

Always contact your GP or Public Health Nurse if you think your baby is jaundiced or showing signs of jaundice.

The Midwives in hospital will be checking your babies jaundice levels every day that you are in the hospital and a plan will be made there if your baby has Jaundice.

There are some tests that are carried out to see if your baby has Jaundice aside from the visible symptoms. The first thing we use is a transcutaneous bilirubin metre TCB, it is a small device pressed against your babies’ skin, it doesn’t hurt your baby at all and it gives the level of jaundice straight away.

If a level is high on a TCB your baby will then need a blood test taken to get the most accurate result and a definite level of bilirubin in the blood, from here, a treatment plan will be arranged.

Symptoms of Jaundice- Discoloration of the skin

Whites of the eyes turn yellow

Sleepy baby

Not waking for feeds


Crying a lot

Losing weight

Not Gaining weight


Not passing stool

Having less than 4 wet nappies a day

Urine concentrated


Babies that were born prematurely have a higher incidence of jaundice

Treatment – Babies only need treatment if they have a high level of bilirubin in their blood and a blood test will confirm this. The main treatment for jaundice is phototherapy. This involves placing your baby under a light that helps to breakdown the bilirubin. This can sometimes be done at ward level if the baby’s level is just at the treatment line rather than being admitted to the neonatal unit, if the level is high, they would need this treatment in the neonatal unit.

Babies need to be fed every3-4 hours to ensure sufficient volumes in their system to flush out the bilirubin so it is very important in the first few days of life that your baby gets as much fluids as possible whether you decide to breast or bottle feed, a good feeding pattern needs to be established from the beginning to hopefully prevent your baby from getting Jaundiced.

Babies with very high levels of bilirubin may need an exchange transfusion where a small amount of their own blood is removed and replaced with matching donated blood.

All of the signs and symptoms for newborn jaundice will be carefully monitored when you come into hospital to have your baby and your baby will be under constant observation in the hospital and also in the community under the care of your GP and Public Health Nurse. The Midwives and Paediatricians will explain everything thoroughly to you should your baby show signs of Jaundice.

I hope this post was helpful for you. We cover everything related to feeding, jaundice, what to do if your baby is unwell and more in our Antenatal Masterclass, just click the button below to get more information and a way to sign up.

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