Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Health & Baby

Font Size

Phototherapy for Jaundice in Newborns - Topic Overview

Phototherapy camera.gif is the most common treatment for reducing high bilirubin levels that cause jaundice in a newborn.

In the standard form of phototherapy, your baby lies in a bassinet or enclosed plastic crib (incubator) and is exposed to a type of fluorescent light that is absorbed by your baby's skin. During this process, the bilirubin in the baby's body is changed into another form that can be more easily excreted in the stool and urine.

A baby with jaundice may need to stay under a phototherapy light for several days. Phototherapy doesn't damage a baby's skin.

During this type of phototherapy:

  • The baby is undressed so that as much of the skin as possible is exposed to the light.
  • The baby's eyes are covered to protect the nerve layer at the back of the eye (retina) from the bright light.
  • Feeding should continue on a regular schedule. There is no need to stop breast-feeding.
  • The bilirubin level is measured at least once a day.

Potential problems that may occur during this standard form of phototherapy include:

  • Skin rash.
  • Damage to the nerve layer at the back of the eye (retina), if the eyes are not properly protected.
  • Dehydration, if the infant does not receive adequate fluids when feeding.
  • Difficulty in maintaining the proper body temperature.

Another type of phototherapy is a fiber-optic blanket or a band. These devices wrap around a baby and can be used at home. Although fiber-optic phototherapy has been shown to reduce bilirubin levels, it takes longer than conventional phototherapy done in a hospital setting. It can be a good alternative for babies with mild jaundice who are otherwise healthy.

If your baby is being treated at home for jaundice, it is important that you understand how to use all the equipment. Ask your health professional for help if you have questions or concerns. A home health nurse may visit to make sure all is going well. The amount of bilirubin in your baby's blood may need to be measured daily.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: September 09, 2014
    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.
    Next Article:

    Phototherapy for Jaundice in Newborns Topics

    Today on WebMD

    mother on phone holding baby
    When you should call 911.
    parents and baby
    Unexpected ways your life will change.
    baby acne
    What’s normal – and what’s not.
    baby asleep on moms shoulder
    Help your baby get the sleep he needs.

    mother holding baby at night
    mother with sick child
    Chinese mother breast feeding newborn baby girl
    Track Your Babys Vaccines
    Baby Napping 10 Dos And Donts
    Woman holding feet up to camera
    Father kissing newborn baby
    baby gear slideshow