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Symptoms and causes - Jaundice in newborn babies

Many newborn babies get jaundice. If your baby has jaundice, the whites of their eyes and their skin appear yellow. Jaundice is usually harmless.

Jaundice symptoms usually begin when your baby is 2 to 3 days old and last between 10 and 14 days.

Get your baby checked by your GP, midwife or public health nurse (PHN) if you think they have jaundice.


Usually, a baby with jaundice will have no symptoms. The main symptom is usually mild drowsiness.

Your GP, midwife, or PHN will examine your baby.

If the jaundice is mild, they will ask you to:

  • feed your baby frequently
  • wake your baby for feeds

They will examine your baby again in 24 to 36 hours.

Jaundice after 2 weeks old

If your baby still has jaundice after 2 weeks of age, contact your midwife, PHN or GP.

They may perform a blood test, especially if your baby's:

  • pee is a dark colour
  • poos are pale

Causes of jaundice

Jaundice is caused by a build-up of bilirubin - a chemical that happens 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, such as:

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

Page last reviewed: 23 May 2023
Next review due: 23 May 2026