Hand to Hold's Official Blog: Written by Parents for Parents

Bili Lights

Most parents have heard of jaundice – when bilirubin levels are high and it causes a yellowing of the skin.  Doctors will have parents put their babies in the sunlight, perhaps have them nap under a sunny window.  For most full term babies a little sunlight will fix the problem.

Many preemie babies are at high risk for high levels of bilirubin which can cause brain damage, so they are monitored closely and treated quickly for this.  Preemies are quickly treated to prevent levels from reaching dangerous levels.  Since they can’t lay your preemie out in the sunlight they bring the light to them.  They use what is called a bili light which mimics the sun to breakdown the bilirubin in the blood and helps it to pass out of the body.

Drake had high levels of bilirubin and was put under the bili light immediately when he was born.  He had to wear the baby shades to protect his eyes.  Although we understood the need for the lights and for his protective eye wear, as a new parent trying to bond with your baby, its hard not being able to gaze into his eyes.  We had to rely on hoping he would know our voices, smells and touch and bond in other ways as much as we could.  Occasionally his levels would be down and we could turn off the lights and take off the glasses for a short time.  It was amazing how happy that simple thing could make us.

Some days, however, his levels would go back up and in addition to the overhead lights they would add a bili blanket, the nurses called it his “party lights”.  The bili blanket would go underneath him so that he had light on all sides of his body so they would not need to turn him, taking time to get each side.  A few of the other parents who didn’t have this problem with their baby would look over with a quizzical look wondering what the blue lights were for.  I am sure it looked strange to them not knowing, like a little baby rave party.

Luckily we were finally able to breakdown the bilirubin and do away with the lights.  Being a parent who has had to go through the bili lights, as common as it is, having your baby’s eyes hidden from you is pretty emotional.  Unfortunately, it’s something we have to put aside and deal with for the greater good.  As preemie parents, during the time spent in the NICU we must constantly face being held back from bonding with our babies the way we want.  But do not despair, do what you can and trust that your baby is bonding with you and will know and love you.

I now take lots of time to stare into his beautiful eyes.  I can get lost in those eyes.  I look forward to the day he says “geez Mom, stop staring at me.”


  1. Drake is so precious!

    Addie’s eyes were still fused shut when she was on bili lights. I’m glad you shared about the hard time you had bonding since you couldn’t make eye contact for long periods of time. Our bonding was mostly containment/touch for the first six weeks.

  2. Stephanie says:

    My son Wyaitt born at 35 weeks was under lights for 2-3 days my daughter Danika born at 32 weeks was under lights for one day

  3. Stephanie P says:

    my son was born at 32 weeks and had 3 days of phototherepy as he had bad jaundice but it took 3-4 weeks for the orange tinge to go as he was just under the line.

  4. no lights for us…33 w 5 d amazingly enough. he was close, but his levels stayed just under where he would need the lights.

  5. My son Tripp, born at 32w2ds was under the lights for 6 days:(

  6. My son born @33 wks with IUGR (2lbs 10oz) was under the lights for 2 days. He hated it; he kept crying and trying to take off his shades. My husband stayed up with him for almost 2 days as I was still recovering from my C-section…somehow holding my husband’s finger with his tiny hands calmed him down. When the nurses asked me if I wanted to take his shades home for his baby book, I politely declined because I knew he was traumatized by those lights.

  7. Only 1 of my 4 preemies needed it and only for one day.

  8. Yes my 32 weeker had phototherapy for several days.

  9. My 35 weeker did not, my 30 weeker did.

  10. Yes 27 weeker 1 lb10oz had lights for 2 days

  11. Yes, 31 weeks, 3 days under the bili lights

  12. One of my twins spent about two weeks under the lights. The docs were only a few hours away from giving her a complete blood transfer. She finally got better, but it was a very scary time for us.

  13. yes both of my twins were in & out for 6 wks..the first 2 wks solid…hard

  14. 36weeks… Wouldn’t nurse. Under the lights for 3 days after birth then readmitted the day after he came home, then sent home with a biliblanket, lost over a pound. Pure torture for week and a half til he decided he wanted to breastfeed. Looking back.. My third baby, breastfed them all… I would’ ve just given this little guy some formula to get that bilirubin out of him!!!

  15. My son was a 23 weeker. So yes, we were under the bili’s for quite some time. Then he was put on medication to help with his levels later down the road. It was a struggle, but well worth it.

    • Jennifer Robinson says:

      Hi Kristin:
      I wonder how old your son is now? My son James is in NICU and the MD put him under the light again 2 days ago. He was born 22 weeks 6 days. and he is 8 days old now. Thank you for your response.

  16. My grandbaby was under the lights

  17. Yes my son was born 29 weeks and had jaundice. He was under the bili lights for about 1 months before they were able to take him out. He was in a intubator as well as both my twins. However my twins were not under the bili lights.

  18. angelaphora says:

    My little angel was treated several times due to the fact he wasn’t feeding due to his perforated bowel.

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