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Jaundice is caused by the buildup in the blood and skin of bilirubin, a byproduct released when red blood cells are broken down in the body. It can occur within 24 hours of birth or gradually appear over the first few days. Occurring in more than half of newborns, it’s easy to spot: your baby’s skin and eyes will have a yellow cast.
If your baby has jaundice immediately following birth, your doctor will probably want her to spend more time in the hospital for treatment; if you’re already home and you suspect your newborn has jaundice, call your pediatrician. If a blood test reveals high bilirubin levels, your doctor will likely prescribe extra fluids as well as phototherapy, in the form of special lamps or a biliblanket; these break down the excess bilirubin so it can be excreted naturally.