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Jaundice in Newborns (Hyperbilirubinemia) - Home Treatment

Parents are often asked to watch their newborns for signs of jaundice, which produces a yellow tint to the skin and eyes. Many mothers and their newborns leave the hospital within 48 hours of the baby's birth, often before signs of jaundice develop. It is recommended that your infant have a follow-up exam with your doctor within the first 5 days after birth.

If your baby has jaundice but does not need phototherapy, your baby's doctor will ask you to watch for and report any signs of increasing jaundice or changes in behavior. To check for signs of increasing jaundice:

  • Undress your baby and look at his or her skin closely twice a day. For dark-skinned babies, look at the white part of the eyes to check for jaundice. Remember that your baby will get cold quickly when undressed. Cover your baby after about 1 minute.
  • Check your baby at the same time of day, in the same room, under the same lighting conditions each time. If you think that your baby's skin is getting more yellow, call your doctor.

The best home treatment for jaundice is frequent feedings, whether breast-feeding or bottle-feeding. Feeding your baby frequently (about 8 to 12 times a day) will provide him or her with the fluids needed to get rid of the extra bilirubin.

Babies with jaundice who are otherwise healthy may be treated at home with a type of phototherapy that uses a fiber-optic wrap, usually a blanket or a band. These wraps usually reduce blood bilirubin levels more slowly than standard phototherapy, so generally they are used only for mild jaundice. Sometimes standard therapy and fiber-optic wrap therapy are used together.2

If your baby is being treated at home for jaundice, be sure you understand how to use all of the equipment. Ask your baby's doctor for help if you have questions or concerns. You may need to take your baby to a lab each day to get his or her bilirubin checked. A home health nurse may visit to make sure all is going well.

If your baby has been treated with phototherapy, the yellow tint to the baby's skin and eyes may not disappear immediately. But if the yellow tint intensifies, report it to your doctor.

Sometimes parents try to treat their jaundiced babies on their own without the proper equipment. Placing a baby under lights at home, near a windowsill in the sunlight, or outside in the sun will not lower the amount of bilirubin in his or her blood. Your baby's skin may get burned by the lights or the sun. In addition, your baby may get too cold. Special lights and controlled surroundings are always needed to treat jaundice safely.

Some mothers who breast-feed their babies are concerned that they will need to stop breast-feeding if their babies develop jaundice. The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages women to continue breast-feeding newborns with jaundice who are otherwise healthy and to focus on increasing the frequency of feedings (about 8 to 12 times every 24 hours).1 If your baby needs help getting enough milk, you can use a lactation aid or ask your doctor or a lactation consultant to help your baby latch on better.

If your baby is hospitalized, you may need to pump your breasts to maintain your milk production. You can then take the milk to the hospital for your baby's feedings.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 13, 2010
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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