Jaundice -- a yellow coloring of the skin and eyes -- occurs in approximately 60 percent of full-term newborns.
It is generally a temporary condition that does not cause babies harm and does not require any treatment. However, a few babies do require treatment -- both when they are in the newborn nursery and for a short period after they return home.
Jaundice is caused by a pigment that we all have in our blood called bilirubin. Bilirubin is released into the blood by the normal breakdown and turnover of red blood cells, which naturally occurs all the time. It is then processed by the liver into a form that can be removed in the digestive tract.
Newborns typically develop higher bilirubin levels than adults over the first few days of life because they have higher levels and faster turnover of red blood cells -- and produce more bilirubin. Their livers are also immature and less able to remove the bilirubin from their bodies. These factors lead to physiologic jaundice.
The yellow coloring of a baby with physiologic jaundice will often be noticeable around two days of life, will peak at three to five days, and will then resolve within two weeks. Physiologic jaundice poses no danger to the newborn.