Newborn Jaundice and Kernicterus

What to do before leaving the hospital

Some babies with jaundice might look yellow or even orange, but it is not possible to see jaundice in all babies, especially those with darker skin color. Your baby should be checked for jaundice in the hospital and again within 48 hours after leaving the hospital.

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Ask your baby's doctor or nurse about a jaundice bilirubin test.

Create a follow-up plan before leaving the birth hospital. All babies 3 to 5 days old should be checked by a nurse or doctor, because this is usually when a baby's bilirubin level is highest. The timing of the follow-up visit will depend on how old your baby is when you leave the birth hospital and on any other risk factors. Babies with jaundice in the first 24 hours of life or with high bilirubin levels before hospital discharge should have an early follow-up plan.

Treat jaundice seriously.

What do I do if my baby has jaundice?

It is important to take jaundice seriously and stick to the follow-up plan for appointments and recommended care.

Your baby might be put under special blue lights (phototherapy) to lower the bilirubin level. You should not put your baby in direct sunlight; this is not a safe treatment for jaundice and could cause sunburn. A baby with a very high bilirubin level might need a blood transfusion in the hospital.

Make sure your baby is getting enough to eat. The process of removing waste also removes bilirubin in your baby's blood. If you are breastfeeding, you should nurse the baby at least 8 to 12 times a day for the first few days. This will help you make enough milk for the baby and will help keep the baby's bilirubin level down. If you are having trouble breastfeeding, ask your doctor, nurse, or a lactation coach for help.

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