How to Treat Low Blood Sugar in Newborns

Low blood sugar in newborns is referred to as neonatal hypoglycemia, and is generally experienced in the first few days after birth. The condition is experienced by 2 in every 1,000 newborns. In newborns, sugar is important for the energy supply of the brain during birth. Babies get their supply of sugar from the mother through the placenta before birth. After birth, the baby stores sugar in the heart, liver and muscles. Neonatal hypoglycemia can be caused by a number of reasons, and can be well managed to ensure the well-being of the baby.

Causes of Low Blood Sugar in Newborns

Sugar levels usually drop in the first few hours after a child is born. And everything will get back to normal after the baby has had first meal with the glucose your baby gets from milk. The baby's blood sugar levels will experience alternate periods of high and low between meals. For healthy babies, these blood sugar ups and downs can be easily balanced as long as they're properly fed. 

However, some babies are at higher risk of low blood sugar levels. Generally, low blood sugar in newborns is caused by conditions that reduce the amount of glucose in the blood, prevent the storage of glucose in the baby's body, exhaust glycogen stores or inhibit the use of glucose by the body.

Factors that may increase the baby's chances of getting neonatal hypoglycemia include:

  • The presence of very high levels of insulin in the blood of the newborn
  • The baby may not be producing enough glucose
  • The newborn may be using up more glucose than is being produced
  • The newborn may not able to consume enough to maintain the glucose levels
  • The baby may not have received sufficient nutrition during pregnancy
  • The newborn may be suffering from a severe case of hemolytic disease
  • The newborn may have a birth defect
  • The newborn may be in a place that is excessively cold
  • A situation of birth asphyxia
  • The baby may have liver disease
  • The baby may have an infection
  • The baby had breathing difficulties at birth
  • The baby was born prematurely

How to Tell If Your Newborn Has Low Blood Sugar

Low blood sugar in newborns does not usually come with visible signs and symptoms. However, by keenly watching your baby, you should be able to infer the lack of sufficient levels of blood sugar. It is also important to note that these signs will vary from child to child. If you note any of these symptoms in your child, then you need to go see a doctor immediately.

  • Blue coloring of the skin
  • Restlessness
  • Apnea
  • Low body temperature
  • Poor body tone
  • Poor feeding of the newborn
  • Seizure attacks
  • Sluggishness

How Is Low Blood Sugar in A Newborn Managed?

Neonatal hypoglycemia can usually be reversed through certain medical procedures. The treatment options available are usually based on the severity of the condition, and the feeding habits of the newborn.

Most commonly, the condition can be treated through feeding. Usually, the doctor will advise you to feed the baby frequently on breast milk. At the same time, you need to keep your baby close to you as often as you can. This will encourage the baby to feed more, and will also help to keep the baby warm and counter hypoglycemia.

In some cases, the baby may experience trouble latching onto the mother's breasts. This should not be a cause for alarm as the baby can be fed through the mouth or nose, using a tube. The baby will be fed on a mixture containing sugar to correct the situation. Severe cases may prompt the doctors to feed the child through injections.

In cases where the mother is unable to breastfeed the baby for any reason, the baby can still use other feeds as advised by the nurses.

Sometimes, the baby may be getting enough breastmilk, but still have low blood sugar levels. In such instances, the baby may need to be fed on top up formula milk.

If this still fails to work, or the condition keeps recurring, then your baby will need to be tested for other medical conditions that may be making the blood sugar levels drop. Then the doctors will find a way to treat the root medical condition or disease.

Quick Note for Parents

While it may be alarming to have low blood sugar in newborn, it is important to note that the condition does not usually result in serious problems in the later life of the child. This is especially the case if the child has only had a mild case of low blood sugar. With that said, it is important for both parents to play a role in their baby’s well-being by taking the child for check-ups and by feeding the child properly and frequently enough.

Important aspects to observe in your child include the baby's learning ability, hearing, vision and motor capabilities. The baby’s growth with regard to behavior and emotions should also be keenly observed. If possible, the baby should be checked regularly by a doctor.  

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