Treatment will depend on:
- Your baby's bilirubin level, which naturally rises during the first week of life
- How fast the bilirubin level has been going up
- Whether your baby was born early
- How your baby has been feeding
- How old your baby is now
Often, the bilirubin level is normal for the baby's age. Newborns normally have higher levels than older children and adults. In this case, no treatment is needed, other than close follow-up.
You can prevent the kind of jaundice that is caused by too little breastfeeding by making sure your baby is getting enough milk.
- Feed about 10 to 12 times each day, starting on the first day. Feed whenever baby is alert, sucking on the hands, and smacking the lips. This is how babies let you know they are hungry.
- If you wait until your baby cries, feeding won't go as well.
- Give babies unlimited time at each breast, as long as they are sucking and swallowing steadily. Full babies will relax, unclench their hands, and drift off to sleep.
If breastfeeding isn't going well, get help from a lactation consultant or your doctor as soon as possible. Babies born before 37 or 38 weeks usually need extra help. Their moms often need to express or pump to make enough milk while they are learning to breastfeed.
Nursing or pumping more often (up to 12 times a day) will increase the amount of milk the baby gets, and can cause the bilirubin level to drop.
Ask your doctor before deciding to give your newborn formula.
- It is best to keep breastfeeding. Babies need their mothers' milk. Although a baby full of formula can be less demanding, formula feeding may cause you to make less milk.
- If the milk supply is low because baby's demand has been low (for example, if baby was born early), you may have to use formula for a brief time. You should also use a pump to help make more breast milk until baby is better able to nurse.
- Spending "skin to skin" time can also help babies feed better and help moms make more milk.
In some cases, if babies aren't able to feed well, fluids are given through a vein to help increase their fluid levels and lower bilirubin levels.
To help break down the bilirubin if it is too high, your baby may be placed under special blue lights (phototherapy). You may be able to do phototherapy at home.