Donor funding provides a blanket of light for newborn babies

Bilirubin Blanket

Newly purchased bilirubin blankets allow parents and their newborn baby to stay close during the treatment of jaundice.  

When you have a baby, joy rushes over you as you count each tiny toe and hold them tight for the first time. You’ll wonder if they are healthy, how they will grow, when they will feed, if they will sleep; if you’ll ever sleep.  

Most parents though, aren’t imagining a serious medical concern when their newborn arrives. But somewhere, a niggling voice in the back of a parent’s mind, it’s there. Worrying if everything will be okay. Which is why it can be scary when in the first few days of a child’s life, panic sets in as their skin turns yellow with jaundice.   

Newborn jaundice is a condition where a baby’s skin and the whites of their eyes look yellow due to an accumulation of a substance called bilirubin in the bloodstream. This condition is common and is generally not serious. When it is severe, however, phototherapy treatment is required to prevent damage to the baby’s developing brain cells. 

Phototherapy treatment is the use of light to help the body eliminate bilirubin. Traditionally, this treatment required the baby to be away from their parents in an incubator, under special lights wearing only a diaper and shielded goggles. That is until now.  

Thanks to caring donors, phototherapy treatment can now be delivered in the arms of the baby’s parents with the purchase of two bilirubin blankets.  

Bilirubin blankets are blankets woven with cloth and fiber optics, where the fiber optics transmit therapeutic light to the newborn. These blankets make it possible to treat newborn jaundice without having to place the baby in an incubator and cause undue stress and discomfort.  

“Skin-to-skin contact is a powerful yet simple intervention for both mom and infant and creates a strong bond that can last a lifetime,” says Sarah Parkinson, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Women’s Care. “The contact stimulates a number of responses including but not limited to a release of hormones that promote stabilization of infant breathing, heart rate, temperature and blood sugar. In addition, it promotes infant brain development and boosts the immune system. For mom it stimulates milk production and promotes the physical healing from birth.” 

When used, a blanket is draped directly against the baby’s skin to expose them to the light. This flexibility allows a parent to hold their child, change their diapers, even feed them all while receiving phototherapy treatment. 

Grateful parent, Ashly Dias, experienced first-hand the benefits and flexibility the new blanket offers. “My son Lucas was born with jaundice and it was terrifying to know that something was wrong with my little bundle of joy. The bilirubin blanket was a relief because I could still hold and comfort him while he was receiving treatment and we didn’t need to be separated. I love the fact that Lucas could stay close by for his treatment.”  

For parents at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) who are dealing with newborn jaundice, these two blankets are a game-changer, both physically and emotionally. Thanks to bilirubin blankets, and the donation that made them possible, treatment for jaundice in the Mother Baby Unit at LHSC has been revolutionized.