Bilirubin and jaundice
Bilirubin is something that we all have in our blood. When bilirubin is elevated, a person becomes jaundiced, which is to say the skin has a little bit of a yellow or orange coloration. More or less every baby has a mild degree of jaundice, because newborn livers are just getting up to speed. But if the bilirubin is very elevated – i.e., if the baby has a lot of jaundice -- it can be a big problem.
Therefore, one of the important things that we pay attention to in the first days of life is how much jaundice the baby has. Usually the baby reaches a maximum bilirubin level at around four or five days of life, and usually that maximum is nowhere near a dangerous level. We want to make sure that your baby's bilirubin is in the group that is not dangerously high, so we check bilirubin at the hospital before your baby goes home, as part of the effort to figure out who might be at particular risk for having this problem.
We rely on the parents to keep an eye on the baby and let us know if the he or she is becoming more jaundiced during that first week. If you think your newborn is looking yellow, call me up right away.