Hypoglycemia & Breastfeeding
Is low blood sugar in newborns serious? It is actually common for babies to have low blood sugar after birth, but breastfeeding early, and often, can prevent and help with low blood sugar in a baby.
When a baby has low blood sugar it does not mean that he will develop diabetes; most of the time, the blood sugar levels will normalize after the baby starts to drink well.
Low blood sugar should be treated immediately; if it is left for too long, it can cause other serious problems like brain damage.
Causes of Low Blood Sugar in Newborns
- While a baby is inside his/her mother, his blood sugar is controlled by hers, via the umbilical cord. The baby will then store some glycogen in his/her liver during the last three months in utero. This is why low blood sugar is more common in premature babies, due to the fact that they do not yet have the stored glycogen in their liver for regulating sugar.
- Another reason why a baby might have low blood sugar, is when the mother has diabetes that is poorly managed. This will cause a baby to produce too much insulin after birth.
- The baby may be too cold, stressed out or might cry too much after birth, which can also cause hypoglycemia.
- A baby born with low blood sugar may be producing too little glucose, which can be caused by brain injury or metabolic problems. This is a very rare occurrence.
Babies that are at Higher Risk of developing Hypoglycemia
low blood sugar in newborn babies is most commonly found when the mother has diabetes.
- Babies who are premature or who are a very low birth weight are at higher risk.
- A smaller twin has a higher risk of becoming a low blood sugar baby.
- Babies with colds or respiratory problems after birth.
- Mothers who had long labors.
- Babies who are under stress during delivery.
- Babies who get too cold after birth and are not allowed skin on skin contact.
- Mothers who are given intravenous fluids containing glucose.
Help your Baby and/or Prevent Low Blood Sugar in Newborns.
- Breastfeed as often as you can. Breast milk will help stabilize a baby’s blood sugar levels.
- Keep your baby warm and prevent your baby from crying for long periods at a time after birth. Skin to skin contact and kangaroo care is recommended.
- It’s best to breastfeed your baby as quickly after birth as possible, even in the delivery room if you can.
- If your baby is not sucking properly, you can pump the colostrum and cup feed your baby. Even a small amount of colostrum can help regulate your baby’s sugar levels.
- Breast compressions can increase the flow of milk and the amount of milk/colostrum that is transferred to a baby.
- If the mother is diabetic, she should eat well and control her diabetes properly during her pregnancy.
- If supplements or donated breast milk are given to a baby, make sure that they are given without using artificial nipples, which can cause nipple confusion. There are many alternative ways to feed a baby, including using an SNS; this allows a baby to stay on the breast while being supplemented.
Once feeding is established, newborn low blood sugar is usually not a problem anymore.