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When they're about three days old, many babies develop mild jaundice. This will make their skin and the whites of their eyes look a bit yellow. This usually fades within 10 days or so, but more severe jaundice may need treatment. Find out about treatment for newborn jaundice.
Jaundice in newborn babies is common because their livers are immature. Severely jaundiced babies may be treated with phototherapy. The baby is undressed and put under a very bright light, usually with a soft mask over their eyes. The special light helps to break down the chemical that causes jaundice. It may be possible for your baby to have phototherapy by your bed so that you don’t have to be separated.
This treatment may continue for several days, with breaks for feeds, before the jaundice clears up. In some cases, if the jaundice gets worse, an exchange transfusion of blood may be needed (some of your baby’s blood will be removed and replaced with blood from a donor). This is not common. Some babies have jaundice because of liver disease and need different treatment. A blood test that checks for liver disease is taken before phototherapy is started.
More information on "Jaundice in Newborn Babies" can be found in our dedicated Parent Information Leaflet here.
Many babies are jaundiced for up to two weeks following birth. This can be as long as three weeks in premature babies. This is common in breastfed babies and usually it’s normal and does no harm. It is not a reason to stop breastfeeding.
If your baby continues to be jaundiced after two weeks it’s important to see your GP. This is particularly important if your baby’s poo (stool) is chalky white. A blood test will distinguish between 'breast milk jaundice', which will go away by itself, or jaundice that may need urgent treatment.