Treating Neonatal Jaundice at Home

Are you worried about your newborn’s jaundice diagnosis? Don’t fret! Learn how to treat and manage jaundice at home with simple, effective tips and tricks. You can help your little one with easy adjustments to their daily routine.

Quick facts: Treating Neonatal Jaundice At Home

  • ✅ Phototherapy is the most common home treatment for neonatal jaundice, with phototherapy lights being used in up to 70% of cases. (Kendall Regional Medical Center)
  • ✅ Unconjugated (indirect) bilirubin is the main cause of jaundice in newborns, with it rising significantly in the first week of life. (U.S. National Library of Medicine)
  • ✅ In the U.S., approximately 40–60% of newborns develop jaundice during the first week of life. (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
  • ✅ Home phototherapy is not recommended for babies with a bilirubin level of greater than 20 mg/dL. (American Academy of Pediatrics)
  • ✅ Home treatment of jaundice is safe and effective when administered properly, but should always be monitored by a physician. (American Family Physician)

Introduction

Neonatal jaundice is a condition that affects many newborn babies, in which they develop a yellowish hue to their skin or the whites of their eyes. This is due to high levels of bilirubin, an orange-yellow pigment derived from the breakdown of red blood cells. Neonatal jaundice can range in intensity and severity, and can either present as mild, moderate or severe form. Most babies will pass through this phase on their own as bilirubin gradually decreases over time and fades away; however, some require additional treatment at home or in the hospital.

Treating neonatal jaundice at home involves:

  • Giving the baby extra fluids;
  • Making sure he/she stays well hydrated;
  • Providing adequate nutrition such as breast milk or formula;
  • Exposing the baby to regular sunlight;
  • Keeping them comfortable (avoid excess clothing);
  • Administering certain medications if necessary.

Following a comprehensive treatment plan for dealing with neonatal jaundice at home can help ensure that your little one receives proper care and recovers quickly from this common condition.

Causes of Neonatal Jaundice

Neonatal Jaundice is a condition in which a newborn baby’s skin and the whites of their eyes become yellow. It is caused by a buildup of bilirubin in the blood, which is a yellowish pigment produced by the breakdown of red blood cells.

There are a few common causes of neonatal jaundice which we will discuss in more detail:

Physiological Jaundice

Physiological jaundice is the most common cause of neonatal jaundice, and it typically does not require any medical treatment. Physiological jaundice occurs when a newborn baby’s immature liver is unable to process bilirubin as quickly as an adult liver can. This type of neonatal jaundice usually develops within the first few days of life, with peak levels occurring around 48 hours after birth. Most newborns with physiological jaundice will recover on their own and the condition will resolve by itself in one to two weeks.

Treatment at home includes:

  • Bathing and wrapping the baby in sunlight or UV light (phototherapy).
  • Providing extra fluids.
  • Positioning the baby in a way that allows increased air circulation.
  • Changing diapers often.

Breastfeeding Jaundice

Breastfeeding jaundice is a type of neonatal jaundice caused by the baby’s inability to process a certain type of sugar found in breast milk called galactose. Breastfed infants take longer to absorb the galactose, which increases their bilirubin levels. This can lead to a condition known as breastfeeding jaundice.

Breastfeeding jaundice can occur in newborns who are full-term and preterm infants. It is usually seen around the third or fourth day after birth, but can start earlier than this. The baby may have yellowing of their skin and eyes (jaundice), be sleepy or lethargic, and may refuse to feed or nurse for long periods of time.

Treatment for breastfeeding jaundice includes:

  • Extra breastfeeding
  • Phototherapy (if necessary)
  • Changing to a lactose-free infant formula if needed.

Breast Milk Jaundice

Neonatal jaundice is a common condition in newborns due to the build-up of a yellowish pigment called bilirubin in the baby’s bloodstream. A type of jaundice known as Breast Milk Jaundice (BMJ) is caused by components found in the mother’s breast milk. When BMJ occurs, it often looks like the typical form of neonatal jaundice – a yellowish discoloration of the baby’s skin and eyes.

The primary cause for BMJ is thought to be an overabundance of two compounds: lecithin and cephalin which are contained in breast milk. These compounds may inhibit proper breakdown and excretion of bilirubin leading to higher levels in the baby’s bloodstream. Additionally, certain types of bacteria living on the mother’s skin can also be passed through her breast milk, increasing levels of bilirubin even further.

Fortunately, BMJ usually resolves itself over time, though milestones such as weaning or switching to formula feeding may help speed-up recovery if needed.

Hemolytic Jaundice

Hemolytic jaundice is a type of neonatal jaundice that occurs when the red blood cells (RBCs) of an infant break down faster than they can be replaced. This premature breakdown of RBCs, known as hemolysis, can be caused by Rh incompatibility, genetic disorders such as spherocytosis and sickle cell anemia, or certain infections. Additionally, some newborns may experience hemolytic jaundice due to incompatibilities between the mother and her unborn baby. During pregnancy, maternal antibodies from the mother can pass through the placenta to affect fetal blood cells.

Hemolytic jaundice is characterized by:

  • Yellow pigmentation in the skin and eyes (icterus)
  • Dark urine color due to an increase in the amount of bilirubin in the body
  • Fatigue

Laboratory tests such as a complete blood count are used to diagnose this condition accurately. Treatment may include phototherapy, IV fluids, exchange transfusions or other medications depending on how severe it is.

Infectious Jaundice

Infectious jaundice is a type of neonatal jaundice caused by a bacterial or viral infection. This type of jaundice involves an increased breakdown of red blood cells, leading to an increase in bilirubin levels in the body. The most common cause of infectious jaundice is a condition known as sepsis, which is caused by the body’s response to a bacterial infection. In newborns, this infection can cause an overproduction of red blood cells and/or bile pigment (bilirubin).

Other causes may include infections such as meningitis, pneumonia, and urinary tract infections. Symptoms may include pale yellow skin discoloration, dark urine, fever, lethargy and irritability. Treatment usually involves antibiotics to get rid of the underlying bacterial or viral infection causing the condition.

Treatment Options

Neonatal jaundice is a common condition in newborn babies and requires treatment as soon as possible to prevent long-term health complications. Treatment options for neonatal jaundice include phototherapy, exchange transfusions, and home treatments.

Here, we will discuss in detail about the various treatment options for neonatal jaundice at home:

Phototherapy

Phototherapy is a common treatment option for neonatal jaundice. It involves exposing the baby’s skin to a special type of blue light, which helps to break down bilirubin in the blood and helps the body expel it in urine and feces. The light is usually provided via special fluorescent lamps placed over or around the baby’s blanket or bassinet.

Phototherapy is typically used along with increased feeding, intravenous fluids, and other treatments as needed. Phototherapy may be used in the hospital or at home with special equipment. In addition to reducing bilirubin levels, it also helps relieve discomfort caused by jaundice in some babies.

Exchange Transfusions

Exchange transfusions are the most invasive form of treatment for neonatal jaundice. This procedure involves slowly replacing a newborn’s own blood with donor blood. This type of transfusion is usually recommended when a baby’s bilirubin levels are very high and/or other treatments not successful. The purpose of this procedure is to reduce the level of bilirubin in a baby’s bloodstream, which can cause jaundice.

Exchange transfusions require sophisticated medical equipment, qualified medical personnel and take several hours to complete. Therefore, it must be done in a hospital setting and carries higher risks than home treatments like phototherapy. Complications associated with exchange transfusions include:

  • Anemia due to blood loss
  • Infection or allergic reactions to donor blood
  • Breathing difficulties due to decreased oxygen levels in the bloodstream.

Home Treatment Options

Neonatal jaundice can be a worrisome condition for parents, but there are some home treatment options available to help manage the condition. Sunlight exposure, dietary changes and phototherapy are among the home treatments recommended by pediatricians to reduce the severity of jaundice in newborns. Let’s take a closer look at these home treatment options:

  • Sunlight exposure
  • Dietary changes
  • Phototherapy

Increase Fluid Intake

Increasing fluid intake is an important part of home treatment options for newborns with jaundice. It helps the body to scavenge more bilirubin and flush it out of the blood more quickly.

  • A breast-feeding baby should not drink any formula but should instead feed more frequently. This will ensure that she has sufficient hydration and to get rid of the bilirubin accumulated in her body.
  • If a baby is formula-fed, then give extra water in between each feeding session.
  • Babies who are older than one month can also be given oral rehydrating solutions such as Pedialyte which contains electrolytes and glucose that help replenish lost fluids and minerals.
  • Additionally, mild sun exposure may also help reduce jaundice in newborns by encouraging their bodies to make more vitamin D3, helping free up the skin’s ability to absorb bilirubin molecules from the blood circulation.

Increase Breastfeeding

Increasing breastfeeding is often the most effective, simplest, and safest at-home treatment option for neonatal jaundice. For this reason, it is recommended that all newborns are breastfed at least 8 to 12 times per day.

Frequent feedings can help flush out bilirubin, as well as provide healthy colostrum which helps protect babies from infection and boosts their immune systems. Additionally, it has been noted that some breastfed babies who have jaundice tend to recover faster than those who are formula fed.

If the baby cannot latch properly or if the mother has difficulty producing enough milk to meet her baby’s needs, pumping or hand expression may be recommended. Other strategies include:

  • Skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby (or pumping)
  • Supplementing with lactation tea or lactation cookies.

Increase Sunlight Exposure

Increasing sunlight exposure is an effective home-treatment option for neonatal jaundice. Sunlight exposes the skin of the baby to ultraviolet light which helps the body break down bilirubin, the pigment that causes jaundice. It’s important to note that direct sun should not be used as it can damage delicate baby skin and cause serious burns. Rather, exposing your baby’s skin to natural sunlight through a window or in an outdoor space is recommended as a safe way to treat jaundice.

Providing direct sunlight on a regular basis can be beneficial as long as you take safety measures like:

  • Limiting time in direct sunlight
  • Ensuring proper clothing coverage while outdoors.

Additionally, when providing exposure to natural light, check with your baby’s doctor first and be sure you are following their advice closely.

Avoid Overwrapping

When neonatal jaundice is at home, parents should take great care to avoid overwrapping the infant. Wrapping the infant too tightly or not allowing enough airflow can cause overheating, which can exacerbate jaundice. Swaddling and using a blanket should be avoided until the jaundice has gone away completely.

Parents should dress their infant in lightweight clothing and ensure that their head remains uncovered while they are sleeping. Additionally, they should use a fan or air-conditioning in the room to keep it from becoming overly warm and humid.

Avoiding overwrapping is critical for controlling jaundice as infants produce more heat than adults and are easily prone to becoming overheated.

Conclusion

Treating Neonatal Jaundice at home can be a very effective way of managing the problem and reducing the risk of long-term complications associated with this condition. Home care involves various measures such as increasing the frequency of breastfeeding, exposing the baby to sunlight to absorb vitamin D, and giving small doses of Vitamin K. Parents should also keep an eye out for any signs of jaundice or other complications.

When considering home care for neonatal jaundice, it is always best to consult with a doctor first for advice and direction. An experienced doctor can provide guidance on how to treat jaundice safely and effectively as well as evaluating the baby’s overall health throughout the process. It is important that any changes in the baby’s health are reported immediately so that medical attention can be sought if needed.

With proper care, many cases of neonatal jaundice can be treated successfully at home without serious consequences.

FAQs about: Treating Neonatal Jaundice At Home

Q1: What is Neonatal Jaundice?

A1: Neonatal jaundice is a condition in which a newborn baby’s skin and whites of the eyes appear yellow. It occurs when there is too much bilirubin, a yellow pigment, in the baby’s blood.

Q2: What are the home treatments for neonatal jaundice?

A2: One home treatment for neonatal jaundice is phototherapy, or light therapy. This involves exposing the baby to a special blue light for a certain period of time. Other treatments include increasing the baby’s fluid intake, using a bili blanket, or using a combination of both.

Q3: How long does it take for neonatal jaundice to go away?

A3: It depends on the severity of the case and the type of treatment used. In most cases, neonatal jaundice can be resolved within a few days with the right treatment. However, it can take up to two weeks for the bilirubin levels to return to normal.

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