Our bodies need glucose (a type of sugar) to function normally. If the level of glucose in our bloodstream falls, our brains are affected. This is why we feel irritable and find it hard to concentrate when we get hungry.
Throughout pregnancy, your baby is fed continuously through the umbilical cord and the blood glucose levels remain fairly constant. After delivery, the cord is cut and your baby’s body has to adapt quickly to the resulting fall in blood sugar. It is normal for a new baby’s blood sugar levels to fall at times during the first two to three days of their life. Your baby can get energy for their brain from glycogen stored in the liver, which serves as an alternative to glucose.
So try not to worry if your baby does not feed much in the first few days. Provided they are normal and healthy, he or she will not come to any harm. If you are breastfeeding, they will not need bottles of milk or sugar water. Nor will they need any blood tests to check glucose levels.
There are some babies, however, who can have problems with the normal fall in blood sugar. These include:
• Babies of diabetic mothers;
• Babies who have not grown well in the womb;
• Premature babies;
• Ill babies.
If your baby falls into one of these categories, your midwife will keep a close eye on them until feeding is well established. She will check:
• Your baby’s temperature;
• Her breathing;
• Her skin colour;
• Whether they are ‘twitchy’.
If your baby has a medical problem, in addition to hypoglycaemia, it will be treated. He or she may also need to have a glucose drip into a vein if their blood sugar levels fall very low. However, in nearly every case, the best way of giving a baby ample glucose is via breastmilk.