Signs of infant jaundice usually appear between the second and fourth day after birth and include:
- Yellowing of the skin
- Yellowing of the eyes
You'll usually notice jaundice first in your baby's face. If the condition progresses, you may notice the yellow color in his or her eyes, chest, abdomen, arms and legs.
The best way to check for infant jaundice is to press your finger gently on your baby's forehead or nose. If the skin looks yellow where you pressed, it's likely your baby has jaundice. If your baby doesn't have jaundice, the skin color should simply look slightly lighter than its normal color for a moment.
It's best to examine your baby in good lighting conditions, preferably in natural daylight.
When to see a doctor
Most hospitals have a policy of checking a baby for jaundice before discharge. The American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines regarding jaundice recommend that your newborn infant be examined for jaundice whenever a routine medical check is done and at least every eight to 12 hours while in the hospital.
Your baby should be checked for jaundice when he or she is between three and seven days old, when bilirubin levels usually peak. Therefore, if your baby is discharged earlier than 72 hours following birth, you should have a follow-up appointment to check for jaundice within two days of discharge.
The following signs or symptoms may indicate severe jaundice or complications from jaundice. Call your doctor if:
Apr. 14, 2011
- Your baby's skin becomes more yellow
- Your baby's skin looks yellow on the abdomen, arms or legs
- The whites of your baby's eyes look yellow
- Your baby seems listless, sick or difficult to wake
- Your baby isn't gaining weight or is feeding poorly
- Your baby makes high-pitched cries
- Your baby develops any other signs or symptoms that concern you
- Diagnosed jaundice lasts more than three weeks
- Jaundice. American Academy of Pediatrics. http://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/Pages/Jaundice.aspx. Accessed Feb. 24, 2011.
- Management of hyperbilirubinemia in the newborn infant 35 or more weeks of gestation. American Academy of Pediatrics Policy. http://aappolicy.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/pediatrics;114/1/297. Accessed Feb. 24, 2011.
- Neonatal hyperbilirubinemia. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/sec19/ch274/ch274b.html?qt=neonatal%20hyperbilirubinemia&alt=sh. Accessed Feb. 24, 2011.
- Lease M, et al. Assessing jaundice in infants of 35-week gestation and greater. Current Opinion in Pediatrics. 2010;22:352.
- Cohen RS, et al. Understanding neonatal jaundice: A perspective on causation. Pediatric Neonatology. 2010;51:143.
- Wong RJ, et al. Treatment of unconjugated hyperbilirubinemia in term and late preterm infants. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Feb. 24, 2011.
- Moerschel SK, et al. A practical approach to neonatal jaundice. American Family Physician. 2008;77:1255.