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Jaundice in newborns

Symptoms of jaundice usually appear about three days after birth and disappear by the time the baby is two weeks old.

Jaundice usually appears about three days after birth and disappears by the time the baby is two weeks old.

In premature babies, who are more prone to jaundice, it can take five to seven days to appear and usually lasts about three weeks. It also tends to last longer in babies who are breastfed, affecting some babies for a few months.

If your baby has jaundice, their skin will look slightly yellow. The yellowing of the skin usually starts on the head and face, before spreading to the chest and stomach.

In some babies, the yellowing reaches their legs and arms. The yellowing may also increase if you press an area of skin down with your finger.

Changes in skin colour can be more difficult to spot if your baby has a darker skin tone. In these cases, yellowing may be more obvious elsewhere, such as:

  • in the whites of their eyes
  • inside their mouth
  • on the soles of their feet
  • on the palms of their hand

A newborn baby with jaundice may also:

  • be poor at sucking or feeding
  • be sleepy
  • have a high-pitched cry
  • be limp and floppy
  • have dark, yellow urine – it should be colourless
  • have pale poo – it should be yellow or orange

When to seek medical advice

Your baby will usually be examined for signs of jaundice within 72 hours of being born, during the newborn physical examination.

If your baby develops signs of jaundice after this time, speak to your midwife, health visitor or GP as soon as possible for advice.

While jaundice isn't usually a cause for concern, it's important to determine whether your baby needs treatment.

Read more about diagnosing jaundice in babies.

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