Blood Sugar Monitoring and Treatment in the NICU
Blood sugar is the amount of sugar in your baby’s blood. The body uses sugar to function. Blood sugar must stay within a certain range for the body to be healthy. A hormone (body chemical) called insulin helps the body maintain a normal blood sugar level. In many newborns, blood sugar is either too high or too low. So, your baby’s blood sugar level will be watched carefully during his or her stay in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit). If blood sugar is too high or too low, treatment will bring it back under control.
Why Is My Baby’s Blood Sugar Abnormal?
Low blood sugar is common in many babies right after birth, as the baby’s body gets used to regulating its blood sugar level without help from the mother’s body.
High blood sugar can be caused by illness or stress. It’s also common in preemies born very early, because the pancreas (organ that makes insulin) is not fully developed.
How Blood Sugar Is Monitored
A lancet (tiny blade) is used to take a drop of blood from the baby’s foot. The blood is put on a small test strip. This measures the sugar in the drop of blood.
How Blood Sugar Problems Are Treated
If blood sugar is too low, the baby may be fed more often. The natural sugar in the breast milk or formula helps raise the baby’s blood sugar level. The baby may also be given supplemental glucose (sugar) through an IV (intravenous) line.
If blood sugar is too high, the baby may be given insulin. This helps the body use up more of the sugar in the blood. If the baby is being fed through an IV, the amount of glucose in the IV fluid may be lowered.
Does My Baby Have Diabetes?
In adults, blood sugar problems are often due to diabetes. In fact, if a mother has diabetes, her baby is more likely to have temporary low blood sugar at birth. The problem continues until the baby’s pancreas adjusts to the baby’s normal blood sugar level . But the blood sugar problems babies have do NOT mean the baby has diabetes. Having low or high blood sugar as a newborn does not mean that your baby is likely to grow up to have diabetes, either.