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Discharge Instructions for Newborn Jaundice

Baby's face showing yellowish skin and whites of eyes. Your baby has been diagnosed with jaundice. This is a short-term condition. Jaundice happens when your baby’s liver is still immature and isn't able to help the body get rid of bilirubin. Bilirubin is a substance that is found in the red blood cells. It can build up in the blood after your baby is born. This is part of the normal breakdown of red blood cells. But, if bilirubin levels become too high, they can be dangerous to your baby's developing brain and nervous system. That is why it is important to check babies who have signs of jaundice to make sure the bilirubin level does not become unsafe. An immature liver is normal at this stage of your baby’s growth. Your baby's liver will quickly begin to activate the proteins needed to remove bilirubin from the body. Almost half of all babies show some signs of jaundice, such as yellow skin or eyes.

Home care

  • Watch your baby for signs of jaundice returning or getting worse:

    • Your baby’s skin or the whites of the eyes turn yellow.

    • If jaundice gets worse, the yellow color will move from the eyes to your baby's face; then it will move down your baby's body toward the feet.

  • Breastfeed your baby often, at least 8 to 12 times every 24 hours. (Most babies with jaundice get better after eating for several days because the bilirubin is removed from the body in the stools.) 

  • Talk with your baby's health care provider about feedings if you are bottle-feeding your baby.

When to call your baby's health care provider

Call your baby's health care provider if your baby:

  • Refuses to nurse or take a bottle

  • Loses weight or isn't gaining weight

  • Has pale skin

  • Has pale or grayish stool or bowel movements 

  • Has jaundice that gets worse (yellow color moving toward the feet)

  • Has jaundice that does not improve by 2 weeks of age

  • Has a fever 

  • Is fussy or crying a lot

  • Is vomiting 

  • Has fewer than 6 wet diapers per day

 

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