Low Blood Sugar
At birth, the level of sugar in the blood of a baby is similar to that of an adult’s level. Within a short period of time, the baby’s blood sugar level drops quickly. In a healthy term baby, exclusive breastfeeding generally meets their needs and this should be started within an hour after birth. Breastfeeding brings their sugar levels back to a normal range. If the baby cannot get their blood sugar levels back within the normal range, they have hypoglycaemia (or a low blood sugar level). Preterm babies are more prone to low blood sugar levels than term babies.
If your baby is suspected of having hypoglycaemia, they will be tested to confirm. This either involves taking blood from the heel (a heel prick) or intravenously (from their veins). Often, hypoglycaemia results from poor feeding. If this is the reason, your baby’s feeding regime will be changed. If your baby remains hypoglycaemic after 24 hours, further investigations will be required.
Babies at risk of hypoglycaemia include:
- small for gestational age babies
- babies born prematurely; babies who are poor feeders
- babies who have suffered intrapartum asphyxia, or oxygen deprivation
- sick babies
- babies of diabetic mothers
What are the treatments?
Persistent hypoglycaemia, i.e. lasting longer than 24 hours, is a cause for concern and further tests will be needed. Sometimes, the baby’s doctor will look for input from the endocrinology team. In general, the treatment for hypoglycaemia is frequent feeding. However, in the cases where the blood glucose remains low, or critically low, dextrose (a form of sugar) will be given intravenously. If your baby is showing signs of hypoglycaemia, e.g., jitteriness, being unwell, apnoea, cyanosis (turning blue), or convulsions, they will receive intravenous dextrose immediately.