Hypoglycemia in a Newborn Baby
What is hypoglycemia in a newborn baby?
Hypoglycemia is when the level of sugar (glucose) in the blood is too low. Glucose
is the main source of fuel for the brain and the body. In a newborn baby, low blood
sugar can happen for many reasons. It can cause problems such as shakiness, blue tint
to the skin, and breathing and feeding problems.
What causes hypoglycemia in a newborn baby?
Hypoglycemia can be caused by conditions such as:
- Poor nutrition for the mother during pregnancy
- Making too much insulin because the mother has poorly controlled diabetes
- Incompatible blood types of mother and baby (severe hemolytic disease of the newborn)
- Birth defects
- Congenital metabolic diseases
- Not enough oxygen at birth (birth asphyxia)
- Liver disease
Which newborns are at risk for hypoglycemia?
Babies are more likely to have hypoglycemia include:
- Babies born to mothers with diabetes
- Babies who are small for gestational age or growth-restricted
- Preterm babies, especially those with low birth weights
- Babies born under significant stress
- Babies with mothers treated with certain medicines such as terbutaline
- Babies who are large for their gestational age
What are the symptoms of hypoglycemia in a newborn baby?
Signs of low blood sugar may not be obvious in newborn babies. The most common signs
- Blue tint to skin and lips (cyanosis)
- Stopping breathing (apnea)
- Low body temperature (hypothermia)
- Floppy muscles (poor muscle tone)
- Not interested in feeding
- Lack of movement and energy (lethargy)
The signs of hypoglycemia can be like other health conditions. Make sure your child
sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
How is hypoglycemia in a newborn baby diagnosed?
A simple blood test for blood glucose levels can diagnose the problem.
How is hypoglycemia in a newborn baby treated?
Treatment will depend on your baby's gestational age and overall health. Treatment
includes giving the baby a fast-acting source of glucose. This may be as simple as
a glucose and water mixture or formula as an early feeding. Or your baby may need
glucose given through an IV. The baby's blood glucose levels are checked after treatment
to see if the hypoglycemia occurs again.
What are possible complications of hypoglycemia in a newborn baby?
The brain needs blood glucose to function. Not enough glucose can harm the brain's
ability to function. Severe or long-lasting hypoglycemia may cause seizures and serious
Can hypoglycemia in a newborn baby be prevented?
In many cases, there may not be a way to prevent hypoglycemia in a newborn baby. For
a baby with risk factors, healthcare providers will need to watch carefully for the
signs and treat as soon as possible. Mothers with diabetes should keep their blood
glucose levels in a normal range during pregnancy. This may help lower the risk for
When should I call my child's healthcare provider?
Call your baby’s healthcare provider right away you see signs of low blood sugar in
your baby. Give your baby formula or a glucose and water mixture, if advised.
Key points about hypoglycemia in a newborn baby
- Hypoglycemia is a condition in which the level of glucose in the blood is lower than
- A baby is at risk if he or she has a mother with diabetes, is preterm, or is large.
- If your baby has signs of hypoglycemia, give him or her formula or glucose and water
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s health care provider:
- Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
- At the visit, write down the names of new medicines, treatments, or tests, and any
new instructions your provider gives you for your child.
- If your child has a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose
for that visit.
- Know how you can contact your child’s provider after office hours. This is important
if your child becomes ill and you have questions or need advice.