Jaundice comes form the French word jaune, which means “yellow.” When we say a baby looks jaundiced, we’re describing the color of his skin. One out of five newborns will have some degree of jaundice. In most cases, it’s insignificant. Jaundice comes from bilirubin, a by-product of red blood cells. The bilirubin is processed in the liver and eventually excreted from the body. Babies may get jaundice because:
- They have a higher red blood cell count when they’re first born.
- Their red blood cells break down a little faster than ours.
- When they’re first born, their liver is immature.
This type of jaundice is called physiological because it’s caused by the natural process of breaking down red blood cells. The yellow color seems to move from the tip of the nose to the tip of the toes. Bilirubin levels seem to peak at 4-6 days of age. In cases of more severe jaundice, home phototherapy or even brief hospitalization may be required.
If the jaundice continues to the waist line or into the lower extremities, please notify your provider immediately.