Jaundice | Treatment


How is jaundice treated?

If the bilirubin level is not too high, your baby might not need any treatment. Your doctor might just want you to feed your baby breast milk or formula more often.

If the bilirubin level is very high or is getting higher very quickly, your baby will need light therapy. This is also called phototherapy. Phototherapy helps to break down bilirubin in your baby's skin.

For this treatment, your baby is placed under special white, blue or green lights. The baby might also be placed on a special light-producing blanket. Your baby's eyes are covered to protect them from the bright lights. Phototherapy usually lasts for 1 or 2 days.

Phototherapy can give your baby loose stools, temperature problems or dehydration. Your doctor will watch your baby carefully to prevent or treat these problems.

If your baby's bilirubin level gets too high, and phototherapy does not work well enough, the baby might need an exchange transfusion. In this treatment, some of your baby's blood is taken out, and it is replaced with blood from someone else.

How long will my baby have jaundice?

Jaundice lasts for a different time in different babies. Often, the bilirubin level goes up for the first 3 to 4 days and then slowly goes back down. A baby who is breastfed may have mild jaundice for a longer time than a baby who is formula-fed.


Hyperbilirubinemia in the Term Newborn by ML Porter, CPT, MC, USA, and BL Dennis, MAJ, MC, USA (American Family Physician February 15, 2002, http://www.aafp.org/afp/20020215/599.html)

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 02/10
Created: 04/03