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Phototherapy For Jaundice In Newborns


Phototherapy is light treatment for newborn jaundice. Newborn jaundice is excess bilirubin in your newborn's blood. Bilirubin is a yellow substance found in red blood cells. Phototherapy turns bilirubin into a form that your newborn's body can remove. Excess bilirubin will cause your newborn's skin and the whites of his eyes to turn yellow. It usually happens during the first week of life.


Phototherapy at home:

The lights will be delivered to your home. You will be taught how to use them. Do the following:

  • Keep the room warm: The temperature in your baby's room should be between 68°F and 75°F (20°C and 24°C). Close windows and doors to decrease drafts in the room. Make sure your baby's bedding is dry. This will help him stay warm.
  • Turn on the lights: There are many different types of phototherapy lights. They may come inside a case that can be propped open. They may come as a row of lights that your baby lies under. They may come in a pad that your baby lies on. Your baby's pediatrician will tell you how many hours a day to do phototherapy. Follow directions.
  • Undress your baby except for his diaper: Put an eye cover on your baby's eyes. This will protect his eyes from the light.
  • Place your baby under, or on, the lights as directed: Change your baby's position every 1 to 2 hours. This exposes all areas of your baby's skin to the lights. This will help the lights break down the bilirubin as quickly as possible. Ask about the best ways to position your baby.
  • Take your baby's temperature every 3 to 4 hours: Place the thermometer in your baby's armpit while the lights are on. His temperature should be between 97°F and 100°F (36.1°C and 37.8°C).
    • If your baby is too warm: Remove the curtains or cover from around the light set. Decrease the room temperature by 1° or 2°. Check your baby's temperature every 15 minutes until it decreases.
    • If your baby is too cold: Wrap him in blankets and hold him close to you. Feed him warm breast milk or formula. Check your baby's temperature every 15 minutes until it increases.
  • Feedings: Your baby should feed in his usual way during the phototherapy. He may need to eat more often. This will help get rid of the bilirubin through his urine and bowel movements. You may need to feed him with the lights on.
  • Keep a log: Record feeding times and amounts. Record your baby's temperature and how many wet or soiled diapers he has. Your baby should have at least 6 wet diapers and 1 soiled diaper each day. His urine may be darker as the bilirubin leaves his body. His bowel movements may change from yellow to green.

Comfort your baby during treatment:

Your baby may be fussy or irritable during the treatment. Sing or talk softly to your baby. Give him a gentle massage. Try offering him a pacifier.

How to know when your baby has finished treatment:

A healthcare provider will do blood tests on your baby at home to check his bilirubin levels. When your baby's bilirubin level is low enough, the lights can be turned off. Another blood test will be done in 24 hours to check the bilirubin level. If the level stays low enough, your baby's treatment will be finished. The lights will be removed from your home.

Follow up with your baby's pediatrician as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your baby's visits.

Contact your baby's pediatrician if:

  • Your baby's jaundice gets worse.
  • Your baby's jaundice is not gone by the time he is 14 days old.
  • You think your baby is not drinking enough breast milk, or he is losing weight.
  • Your baby does not want to breastfeed or drink formula.
  • Your baby has pale, chalky bowel movements.
  • You have questions or concerns about your baby's condition or care.

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • Your baby has a fever higher than 100.4°F (38°C) for more than 30 minutes.
  • You cannot raise your baby's temperature above 96°F (35.6°C) after 30 minutes.
  • Your baby has trouble feeding, or he will not feed at all.
  • Your baby begins to vomit forcefully, or his vomit is yellow.
  • Your baby is hard to wake up.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.