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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.


Before your baby's treatment:

  • Informed consent is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that your child may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your child's medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done to your child. Make sure all of your questions are answered.
  • An IV is a small tube placed in your child's vein that is used to give him medicine or liquids.
  • Blood tests: Healthcare providers may need to take a sample of your baby's blood to check his bilirubin levels. He will need to have blood drawn more than once.

During your baby's treatment:

One or more lights will be placed above your baby. He will be undressed except for his diaper. He will be placed on his back to absorb the most light. He may also lie on a flexible light pad, or his healthcare provider may wrap him in the light pad. Eye covers will be used to protect his eyes from the light. Healthcare providers will monitor your baby closely. When your baby's bilirubin level is low enough, they will turn off the lights. They will do another blood test in 24 hours to check the bilirubin level. If the level stays low enough, your baby's treatment will be finished.

  • Feedings: Your baby may feed in his usual way during the phototherapy. He may need to be fed more often to help get rid of the bilirubin in his bowel movements. Healthcare providers may leave the lights on during feedings.
  • Heart monitor: This is also called an ECG or EKG. Sticky pads are placed on your baby's skin to record the electrical activity of his heart. This is done to monitor how his heart reacts to phototherapy.
  • Intake and output: Healthcare providers need to know how much liquid your baby is getting. This includes breast milk, formula, or IV liquid. Tell healthcare providers how much formula your baby eats or how long he breastfeeds. They also need to know how much your baby urinates and has bowel movements. Save any diapers you change so healthcare providers can weigh and measure them.
  • Vital signs: Healthcare providers will check your baby's blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, and temperature. They will also listen to your baby's heart and lungs through a stethoscope. These vital signs give healthcare providers information about your baby's condition.


  • Your baby could become too cold or too warm during the treatment. He may be irritable or tired. He may become dehydrated. He may get a skin burn or rash from the lights. He may spit up more. Your baby could have eye damage if his eyes are not protected by an eye mask.
  • Without phototherapy, your baby's jaundice could become worse. If too much bilirubin builds up in the blood, your baby could become deaf or have life-threatening brain damage.


You have the right to help plan your baby's care. Learn about your baby's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your baby's caregivers to decide what care you want for your baby.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.