Last Reviewed: April 2017
What Your Newborn Will Look Like
It's common for a baby's skin and whites of his eyes to start turning a yellowish colour in the first 24 hours after birth. This is known as jaundice.
Causes of jaundice
Bilirubin is the waste created when red blood cells break down in your body.
Jaundice is caused by too much bilirubin in your baby's blood.
After birth there might be too much bilirubin in your baby's body for his liver to remove. This excess of bilirubin builds up in your baby's skin and whites of his eyes, causing them to turn yellow.
Watch a short video about jaundice
Source: Trillium Health Care
It's especially common for premature babies to have jaundice, since their livers aren't fully developed and can't remove waste as quickly as full-term newborns.
Always contact your family doctor if your baby shows signs of jaundice.
Checking baby's bilirubin levels
In the hospital
Most babies will have mild jaundice, which is normal and doesn't harm your baby. The yellowish colour will start to fade once the liver learns to process and remove bilirubin.
It's uncommon for babies to have such high levels of bilirubin that they're at risk; however, in some situations high levels can affect a baby's brain.
A healthcare professional will watch your baby's bilirubin levels in the hospital to make sure they aren't too high. If your baby's bilirubin levels are higher then normal, he'll be treated with special lights (phototherapy) to help lower these levels before any harm can be done.
When you get home
Contact your family doctor to have your baby checked if:
- His skin and whites of his eyes are turning yellow.
- He isn't feeding well.
- He's sleeping all the time.
Breastfeeding your baby on demand for eight or more times in 24 hours is one of the best ways to prevent jaundice. Breast milk acts as a laxative, helping your baby's body remove bilirubin through his urine and stools (pees and poos).
More jaundice information
The Hospital for Sick Children's AboutKidsHealth
Canadian Paediatrics Society