What is Infant Jaundice?

Infant jaundice is a yellow discoloration in a baby’s skin and eyes. The yellow color is caused by an excessive amount of bilirubin in the bloodstream. Usually this occurs in babies born before 36 weeks because the liver is not mature enough to eliminate the bilirubin. Usually infant jaundice does not need to be treated. However, severe cases or poorly treated jaundice can cause brain damage.

What are the causes?

  • Hyperbilirubinemia – excessive bilirubin in the bloodstream
  • Other diseases such as:
  • Internal bleeding
  • An infection in the blood
  • Viral or bacterial infections
  • Incompatibility between the mother’s and baby’s blood – when the mother’s antibodies are transferred to the baby, blood cells are broken down producing more bilirubin
  • Liver malfunction
  • Enzyme deficiency
  • Red blood cell abnormality

Treatments for Infant Jaundice:

  • Light therapy –change the size and shape of bilirubin cells in order to allow them to be excreted in the urine and stool
  • Intraveneous immunoglobulin (IVIg)– in the case where jaundice is caused by incompatibility between the mother’s and baby’s blood, giving IVIg can eliminate the maternal antibodies in the baby’s blood and decrease jaundice
  • Exchange blood transfusion (for dangerously high bilirubin levels)– small amounts of blood are taken out of the baby and filtered to dilute the maternal antibodies and excessive bilirubin. The blood is then returned to the baby.

What can I do?

  • Watch for signs of jaundice in your newborn (especially during the first 72 hours after birth)
  • Talk to your doctor about changing feeding habits in order to reduce levels of bilirubin.


It is important to remember the health information found on this Web site is for reference only not intended to replace the advice and guidance of your health care provider. Always seek the advice of your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may have a true medical emergency, call 911 immediately.


  • Yellowing of the skin
  • Yellowing of the eyes