How to Treat Jaundice in Newborns at Home

How to Treat Jaundice in Newborns at Home: A Simple Guide for Parents

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One of the most common conditions that affect newborns is jaundice. In fact, about three in five babies have it.

The good news is that in most cases jaundice is easy to treat, and in this article, we will discuss simple strategies of how to treat jaundice in newborns at home.

Key takeaways

  • Jaundice is a common condition in newborns that is usually nothing to be concerned about when treated appropriately.
  • Simple treatments such as frequent feeding and exposure to sunlight can help flush out bilirubin from the baby’s body.
  • In more severe cases, phototherapy or a blood transfusion may be necessary, but these situations are rare.

Understanding newborn jaundice

What is jaundice?

Jaundice in newborns occurs when there’s a buildup of bilirubin in your baby’s blood, leading to a yellow coloring in their skin and eyes. This yellow substance is produced when red blood cells are broken down, and in newborns, there is a high level of blood cells being broken down to bring oxygen to their bodies – it’s called hyperbilirubinemia. It’s relatively common, but mild jaundice usually disappears within two or three weeks as your baby’s liver matures.

Symptoms of jaundice in newborns

Some symptoms to watch for when dealing with newborn jaundice include:

  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes
  • Tiredness or difficulty waking
  • Poor feeding habits
  • Dark, yellow urine
  • Pale or clay-colored stools

Learn more about the 4 main types of jaundice here: 4 Different Types of Jaundice in Newborns: A Comprehensive Guide for New Parents

How to treat jaundice in newborns at home

Breastfeeding as a treatment

If your newborn has jaundice, feeding them often can help flush out the bilirubin in their blood through their urine. You should aim to breastfeed your baby 8-12 times a day which is about every three hours through the day and night during the initial weeks. You can also give your baby breast milk from a bottle. Providing adequate nourishment supports healthy development and aids in the natural reduction of bilirubin levels.

Phototherapy and exposure to sunlight

Exposing your baby to sunlight can also help break down the bilirubin in their body. Try to get your baby outside in the sunlight with their arms, face, and chest bare for 10 to 15 minutes.

For cases of moderate jaundice, your baby can receive phototherapy at home as a treatment. This method exposes your infant’s skin to a special type of blue light or places them under a light-emitting pad to break down bilirubin. Through this process, the bilirubin becomes water-soluble, which makes it easier to eliminate from the body.

To set up phototherapy at home, you will need:

  • A phototherapy unit with blue light or a light-emitting pad
  • A safe, comfortable space for your baby
  • Protective eyewear for your infant

For best results, consult with your healthcare provider for guidance on using phototherapy equipment correctly and monitoring your baby’s progress.

Vitamin D supplementation

Vitamin D helps break down bilirubin in the body. If getting out in the sunlight is not possible, supplementing with vitamin D drops is a good alternative. Make sure to check with your pediatrician before giving your baby any supplements.

In most cases of moderate infant jaundice, these simple remedies can help resolve any issues.

Remember, if you start noticing your baby turning yellow, there’s no need to panic or be overly concerned. This is something that is highly treatable at home by taking those very simple measures that we talked about earlier. By feeding your baby often, exposing them to sunlight, and supplementing with vitamin D, you can help your baby overcome this common and very treatable condition.

Medical interventions in newborn jaundice

In rare cases, when a newborn’s jaundice is severe and doesn’t lessen with simple treatments, more powerful medical interventions may be necessary.

Exchange transfusion

In rare cases, severe jaundice may not respond to breastfeeding or phototherapy treatments. Your baby may require an exchange transfusion, a medical procedure where a small amount of your baby’s blood is replaced with donor blood to remove the high levels of bilirubin. This treatment is typically reserved for extreme cases and is performed only under medical supervision in a healthcare setting.


Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) therapy might be considered for your newborn. This treatment involves the transfusion of blood proteins known as immunoglobulins, which can help reduce levels of antibodies and decrease the risk of complications related to severe jaundice.

Throughout these treatments, it’s essential to work closely with your healthcare provider to ensure the best course of action for your baby’s condition. Remember that mild jaundice usually resolves on its own within two or three weeks, so patience and attentive care are crucial during this period.

Monitoring and care at home for your baby with jaundice

Caring for a newborn with jaundice at home is crucial in ensuring their well-being. In this section, we’ll discuss warning signs to look out for and the importance of follow-up care.

Warning signs

Keep an eye out for any signs that could indicate worsening jaundice or complications. Common warning signs to watch for include:

  • Yellower skin or eyes (not to be confused with a flushed face)
  • Lack of feeding or significant weight loss
  • Unusual sleepiness
  • High-pitched cries or wails
  • Changes in stool or urine
  • A fever with a temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher

If you notice any of these warning signs, it is essential to contact your baby’s healthcare provider immediately.

Follow-up care

After leaving the hospital, you’ll need to monitor your baby’s bilirubin level and follow up with the pediatrician.

  • Keep track of your baby’s urine and stool output, as an increase in stool production can help lower bilirubin levels. Remember to change your baby’s diapers frequently and pay attention to their skincare needs.
  • Ensure that your baby is regularly fed, either with breast milk or formula, to aid in the excretion of bilirubin through the stool.

Schedule follow-up appointments with your baby’s pediatrician, as instructed. During these visits, further testing may be conducted to monitor your baby’s bilirubin levels. Regular follow-up visits ensure your baby is recovering well and allow for adjustments in care if needed.

Risk factors and diagnosis of newborn jaundice

baby with jaundice and yellow skin

Risk factors for jaundice

When it comes to newborn jaundice, there are several factors that may increase the risk for your baby. First and foremost, if your baby is born premature (before 37 weeks of gestation), their body might not be fully equipped to process bilirubin, making them more prone to jaundice. In addition, having a different blood type than your baby can increase the chance of jaundice due to Rh incompatibility or ABO incompatibility.

The presence of certain medical conditions such as diabetes in the mother can also increase the risk. Another genetic factor to keep in mind is Crigler-Najjar syndrome, a rare inherited condition that affects the processing of bilirubin and may lead to jaundice in newborns.

Diagnosis of jaundice

If you suspect your baby has jaundice, it’s important to consult a doctor. They will likely perform a physical examination and assess the extent of yellowing in your baby’s skin, eyes, and mucous membranes. To make an accurate diagnosis and determine the underlying cause, your doctor may order blood tests.

These tests can help identify the level of bilirubin in your baby’s blood and also reveal any blood type incompatibilities, making it easier to pinpoint the reason behind your baby’s jaundice. By understanding the cause, you and your doctor can create a suitable treatment plan for your baby, whether it’s at home or in a hospital setting.

Remember to always consult your pediatrician if you suspect your baby is experiencing jaundice, as timely diagnosis and treatment are crucial for their well-being.

Potential challenges and complications of newborn jaundice

Severe jaundice complications

While mild jaundice typically resolves on its own, severe jaundice can lead to complications. Premature babies are at a higher risk of developing complications due to immature liver function. High levels of bilirubin in their blood can cause brain damage. One severe complication is kernicterus, which can result in long-term neurological issues. It is important to be aware of the risk factors associated with severe jaundice, particularly with premature babies.

Instances of biliary atresia, where the bile ducts in the liver are blocked or absent, can also lead to complications, increasing the chances of infection and dehydration. In worst cases, this can lead to hearing loss, cerebral palsy, and bilirubin encephalopathy.

Managing complications

To minimize the risks associated with jaundice in newborns, it’s crucial to consult with your healthcare provider. They can help guide you through treatments and identify potential complications. Home remedies should be strongly recommended by professional healthcare providers.

Taking care of your baby’s nutrition is vital too. Make sure they are receiving adequate feedings to help maintain their weight and promote liver function whether you plan to directly breastfeed, or pump and store your breastmilk. Monitor for signs of weight loss and ensure your baby is getting properly hydrated. Premature birth can exacerbate these complications, so it is important to be extra vigilant with their care.

Keep in mind that some herbal remedies for jaundice may not be appropriate or adequate for managing these complications. Reach out to your healthcare provider before trying any alternative treatments.


Parents, if you start noticing your baby turning yellow, there’s no need to panic or be overly concerned. This is something that is highly treatable at home by taking those very simple measures that we talked about earlier. Feeding your baby often and exposing them to sunlight and supplementing with vitamin D. Plus, because this is such a common infant condition, your baby’s care provider is going to be actively assessing their bilirubin levels in the early weeks to make sure that they are staying safe and healthy.

Now that you know about jaundice and all the ways that you can help treat it, you are totally ready if it is something that your baby has. You don’t have to experience those feelings of overwhelm, worry, or helplessness because you are informed, and you know how to treat newborn jaundice at home and help your baby overcome this common and very treatable condition.

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