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Causes of jaundice in newborn babies

Jaundice is caused by a build-up of bilirubin - a chemical that occurs naturally in your baby's blood.

Newborn babies' livers are slower at removing bilirubin from their blood. When babies are 2 weeks old, their livers are better at removing bilirubin. This means they should no longer have jaundice.

Breastfed babies are more likely to get jaundice than formula-fed babies. It is unclear why breastfeeding increases a baby's risk of developing jaundice.

Jaundice can sometimes be caused by more serious conditions, like:

  • an infection
  • mother and baby's blood groups being incompatible
  • abnormalities in the baby's blood cells
  • liver problems

Always see your GP or public health nurse if you think your baby is jaundiced.

page last reviewed: 17/05/2019
next review due: 17/05/2022