Jaundice in newborns is caused by an excess of red blood cells. Jaundice is seen as a yellow color to the skin, appearing first at the head (skin and sclera – or “whites of the eyes”) then progressing to the feet. As it decreases, it lessens in reverse. Before birth, the placenta removes bilirubin from the baby’s system; after birth, the baby’s liver takes over. In breast-fed babies, an imbalance between mother’s milk supply and baby’s feeding can lead to a higher-than-expected bili level. In addition to ensuring the baby is feeding well and having enough wet/stool diapers, phototherapy or “bili lights” may be needed. Bili lights help speed up the process by breaking down the bilirubin in the skin.
For phototherapy, your baby will be ...
You may be familiar with “laughing gas” as something you find at the dentist’s office but did you know it can also be used when your child is a patient at Swedish? Laughing gas is a mix of nitrous oxide and oxygen, but you might hear your pediatric nurses just call it “nitrous.” In pediatrics, we use it to help a patient relax and feel more comfortable during certain procedures such as IV placement or urinary catheterization.
Once your doctor or nurse has determined that your child is a good candidate for nitrous (without any contraindications such as conditions where air may be trapped in the body, pregnancy, or impaired level of consciousness), your nurses and certified child life specialist (CCLS) will explain the process: Your child will choose a flavor for the inside of their mask used to administer the gas. They will be on a stretcher or bed and have a saturation probe attached to a finger to monitor their oxygenation. One nurse will administer oxygen, then the nitrous, gradually increasing the amount until your child is suitably relaxed for the procedure, while remaining responsive to directions. Another clinician will perform the procedure, e.g., place the IV. A doctor is also available.
As a parent ...