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Health & Baby

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Understanding Newborn Jaundice -- Treatment

What Are the Treatments for Newborn Jaundice?

Often, physiologic jaundice -- the type seen in most newborns -- does not require aggressive treatment. It will typically disappear in a few days with frequent feedings and exposure to indirect sunlight at home. Doctors may test the baby's bilirubin levels during that time to make sure it has not gotten worse.

In rare cases, bilirubin levels become too high very quickly. Special blood tests will help determine the cause -- possibly an infection, a liver problem at birth, a blood problem, or a problem related to breastfeeding.

At the beginning of breastfeeding, less milk is produced by the mother and this may contribute to early jaundice. New mothers are advised to increase the frequency of feeding so more milk will be produced. It is sometimes necessary to give jaundiced babies a formula supplement to breastfeeding to keep them hydrated and help excrete bilirubin from the body.

Sometimes phototherapy -- special light treatment -- is used to help the body get rid of the excess bilirubin. Phototherapy is conducted with a lamp called a bili-light or with a bili-blanket. Your baby is naked during the treatment so that as much skin as possible is exposed to light. Eyes are covered to protect them during treatment. Supplemental feedings may be necessary because of the excess water loss that can occur through the skin.

In severe cases of jaundice, babies may need an exchange blood transfusion.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on March 11, 2015

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