What is jaundice? Is it dangerous?

Jaundice refers to a yellow discoloration of the skin and of the whites of the eyes. It is normal in newborns after the first day of life and is related to elevated levels of a substance known as bilirubin, which the newborn liver is unable to process into a form that the body would ordinarily excrete in the urine. Jaundice can be dangerous if the bilirubin levels become significantly elevated without treatment. In the United States, we rarely see any complications from jaundice because we treat it so conservatively. We will be monitoring your baby for jaundice both during your hospital stay and at your first visit to our o ce. If your baby looks significantly jaundiced, we may order a blood test to determine how high the bilirubin really is.

What conditions would make it more likely for my baby to develop jaundice?

Babies are more likely to be jaundiced if their blood type is a di erent type than their mothers, if they are not feeding well, if they are premature, and if there is a family history of a previous sibling with high levels of jaundice.

Are there treatments for jaundice?

Jaundice is easily treated in the hospital. Sometimes all they need is a little supplementation with formula, as one of the ways they can get rid of bilirubin faster is through stooling, and the more they eat, the more they stool. If the bilirubin level is high enough, babies are placed under blue lights (“bili” lights) at a special ultraviolet frequency that processes the bilirubin through the skin in the same way that the mature liver would do it in the body, enabling the baby to excrete it in the urine.