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What are the treatment options for high bilirubin levels?

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Quick Answer

A high bilirubin level, or hyperbilirubinemia, in newborn babies is usually not dangerous and does not require extensive treatment, says WebMD. Typically, infants eliminate excess bilirubin through their first bowel movements. Colostrum in breast milk encourages bowel movements in newborns, according to About.com.

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Experts recommend breastfeeding jaundiced babies as soon as possible after birth, and a minimum of eight to 12 times per day thereafter, states About.com. If a breastfed baby's bowel movements do not readily lower bilirubin levels, phototherapy treatment with special “bili” lights that emit light in the blue-green range may be used. Bili light on exposed skin changes the structure and shape of bilirubin molecules in a way that makes them easier to eliminate through stool.

Extreme cases of newborn hyperbilirubinemia may require transfusion with a blood protein called immunoglobulin, notes About.com. If this doesn't work, doctors may perform an “exchange transfusion,” during which small amounts of the infant's blood are withdrawn, diluted and returned to the baby.

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