What to Expect when Your Newborn has Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)

measuring diabetesLow blood sugar in babies is also known as hypoglycemia which is when the child has a glucose level of less than 50 mg/dL [1].

This is tested shortly after the child is born and they are given a heel prick to test their levels.

While everything at that time can be remedied, there are certain considerations to watch out for, if this is going to be a normal thing and they are diabetic, or if this is because of other issues during pregnancy.

We also will take a look at what potential considerations are for the future, especially in those that aren’t treated quickly.

High-Risk Babies and Potential Causes

There are a few reasons that the child could have been susceptible to having low blood sugar, Stanford Children’s Health[2] provides a listing of some of the higher risk babies who might be diagnosed:

  • Babies born to diabetic mothers
  • Small babies, large babies, and premature babies
  • Babies born under stress
  • Moms were treated with certain medications

We also must consider the causes of hypoglycemia in infants as there can be multiple underlying reasons for that. URMC Rochester [3] went into detail as well as to what conditions could be the underlying cause of hypoglycemia:

  • The mother did not have optimal nutrition during pregnancy
  • The mother had poorly controlled diabetes
  • Incompatible blood types between mother and baby
  • Birth defect
  • Congenital metabolic disease
  • Low oxygen at birth
  • Liver disease
  • Infection

But now that you know what the disease is how can you recognize that you need to see your doctor.

Symptoms of Low Blood Sugar in Newborns

There are a few things that you’ll want to watch for when considering if your child does have low blood sugar.

One thing that can be scary is that when you have a newborn, especially your first, it might be hard to determine what is and is not normal, so if you are ever unsure, just call your doctor and have them clear your mind or have them come in.

One thing that you could notice is they are to have seizures or convulsions which is serious and requires an ambulance. That is the serious end, however, they could be jittery and irritable, or extremely sleepy [4].

Other symptoms that can creep in would be bluish or pale skin, breathing issues, poor feeding, tremors, and problems with keeping them warm [5].

Treating Low Blood Sugar

Treatment is known to be relatively successful for newborns with the help of extra feedings of either formula or breastmilk (and if the mother is trying to exclusively nurse, they may still have to supplement), a sugar solution is given through IV, or medicine (those that are more serious). [6]

Your baby will continue to be monitored after the sugar solutions and the extra feedings and once their levels are normal they will start to wean them off the IV.[7]

However, if that doesn’t fix the issue, more tests will be issued to find out the underlying cause.

Future Predictions

While many have outlooks of those that have never had issues with low blood sugar, some research has shown there could be negative effects.

One of those is that if the levels fluctuated widely or dropped and raised quickly there could be some neurosensory impairment [8].

Others have shown that those same children were two to three times more likely to have issues when it came to executive functioning and motor skills as well when they reach about 4.5 years of age.[9]

It was also stated that those who were not treated, and it went unnoticed were about four times more likely to experience negative effects [10].

This, however, does not appear to affect their intelligence, which is a positive note.

It’s Common

While most of this sounds scary and that every parent should worry, we should, however, it only affects up to about 15 percent of newborns [11] and generally, when it comes to a healthy pregnancy and mom, it doesn’t affect them at all.

But again, there is still more testing and more long-term research that needs to be done in order to determine if it’s something that will affect the children long term, or something that can be overcome and treated, or treated differently at birth to prevent any real damage.

If you do have diabetes while pregnant, it’s definitely something to watch out for with your child as well as with preterm babies and those where concerns were voiced about the growth of the baby, then ensure that their levels are monitored immediately following the birth and during the next few days.

Otherwise those, the possible complications can be mitigated with proper treatment.


  1. Stanford Children’s Health. Hypoglycemia in the Newborn. [link]
  2. See above #1
  3. University of Rochester Medical Center. Hypoglycemia in a Newborn Baby. [link]
  4. See above #4
  5. Medline Plus. Low Blood Sugar – Newborns [link]
  6. See above #6
  7. See above #4
  8. National Institutes of Health. Treating Low Blood Sugar in Newborns. [link]
  9. University of Auckland via Medical Xpress. Low Blood Sugars in Newborns Linked to Later Difficulties. [link]
  10. See above #10
  11. See above #10
  12. Image: Pixabay

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