Treating Neonatal Jaundice with Phototherapy & Sunlight

Important Note: Speak to your midwife or GP if your baby develops jaundice. They’ll be able to assess whether treatment is needed.

Hello Folks,

When babies are born, they normally develop mild Jaundice symptoms, which is quiet normal. Jaundice is a common and usually harmless condition in newborn babies that causes yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes. The medical term for jaundice in babies is neonatal jaundice.

A general practice in almost all hospitals these days is to keep the newborn under a special type of light (not sunlight) – a florescent Bili light. This is known as Phototherapy.

This Phototherapy is sometimes used to treat newborn jaundice by lowering the bilirubin levels in the baby’s blood. This is done through a process called photo-oxidation which adds Oxygen to the bilirubin. This makes it easier for your baby’s liver to break down and remove the bilirubin from their blood. 

Phototherapy is generally very effective for newborn jaundice and has few side effects, although your baby may develop a temporary rash and diarrhea.  

Once the mother and baby are discharged from hospital, we tend to get anxious if the Jaundice symptoms persist. However, there is nothing to worry as the condition usually gets better within 10 to 14 days and won’t cause any harm to the baby. A general practice is to sunbathe the baby and make use of morning sunlight. Everyone, young and old should get some sunlight during the day as it helps with Vitamin D.

To sunbathe the baby, put him in a bassinet or on a blanket near a window with sunlight. Take off the baby’s clothes except the diaper. Sunbathe the baby like this for 20-30 minutes. In the newborn period, the UV light from the sun helps to break down bilirubin through the infants skin. One hour of sunlight equals 6 hours under the special bilirubin lights at the hospital.

All this said, most babies with jaundice don’t need any specific additional treatment because the level of bilirubin in their blood is found to be low. Newborn jaundice can last longer than 2 weeks if your baby was born prematurely or is solely breastfed. It usually improves without treatment. If additional treatment isn’t needed, mothers can continue to breastfeed the baby regularly, waking them up for feeds if necessary. 


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