I mentioned in a previous post that things went fairly well for us this time around in regards to the birth. However, there was one thing about the birth and hospital stay that made me a little upset. My son was born with low blood sugar. Low blood sugar is pretty common for most babies.
According to Baby Center:
Your baby’s blood sugar levels go down in the first few hours after birth, which is completely normal.
Your baby gets his glucose from milk. When your baby has just had a feed, his sugar levels will go up. As the next feed draws closer, his sugar levels will start to dip. Keeping the right level of sugar in the blood is a delicate balancing act.
Most healthy babies can cope easily with these normal ups and downs in blood sugar level. If you feed your baby whenever he wants, he will take the milk he needs to ensure his sugar levels remain balanced.
From what I’ve read, low blood sugar is fairly normal for most babies. However, majority of babies don’t get checked for low blood sugar. It causes stress on their poor little bodies. Low blood sugar is a bigger concern if the baby is born small or big or is a baby of a diabetic. My son was big and I’m obviously diabetic so they checked him. I was fine with them checking his blood sugar. If he was dangerously low, there are severe consequences such as convulsions.
When my son we born, they checked his blood sugar and it was 32 which is considered low. The hospital that I delivered at was aiming for blood sugars above 40. They are also looking for 3 good blood sugars (from pricking the heel) in a row to stop checking. Since he was low, I was OK that we had to keep checking until we got the three good ones in a row.
However, the hospital I delivered at wanted me to supplement instead of trying to treat the low blood sugar on my own. With my first, I didn’t know any better so we supplemented with formula. This time around I didn’t want to use formula but luckily the hospital had donor breastmilk. I was hesitant about donor breastmilk too but we went ahead with it.
I have since done a TON of research on hypoglycemia in newborns. From what I have read, my breastmilk (or the colostrum) should have been enough to treat. If that isn’t enough to treat the low then skin-to-skin should help. Here is where I started to get upset. They didn’t give me the chance to try and treat my son’s low blood sugar with my own breastmilk. They saw the low blood sugar and instantly jumped to the donor breastmilk option. I wish I could have tried to treat on my own first.
The other thing that started to upset me was the fact that majority of babies’ blood sugar isn’t even checked. Because my son was big and I was diabetic, they just assumed the worst. I had amazing blood sugars for the most part throughout my pregnancy, levels of a non-diabetic. The night before I gave birth, my blood sugar stayed steady at 100mg/dls so my son’s pancreas wasn’t working too hard to compensate for the extra sugar. I think he just had a lower blood sugar because it’s pretty common at first. In fact, his blood sugar’s regulated within 12 hours. In addition, testing his blood sugar via a meter and test strips isn’t the most accurate!
When they first checked him, he was low. This was around 1PM. They did a check at 3PM and at 5PM that were also low (in the 30’s) but then the evening and overnight blood sugars rose above 40, the level they were looking for. One blood sugar overnight was low but they did a serum check (drew blood, more accurate testing method) and it was above 40 so it counted towards our 3 good ones. We were also told conflicting info from the nurses. One nurse would test his blood sugar and if it was low, she would recheck with the other heel. Another nurse would check and if he was low, she would recheck from the same prick as the first time around. One nurse said the other nurse’s practice wasn’t correct because it put too much strain on the baby, causing his blood sugar to elevate. With no consistency or accuracy to the methods, why were we even bothering if he wasn’t showing signs of being low?!
At this point, I was still supplementing despite not wanting to. The overnight nurse told me that since we had three good blood sugars in a row, we didn’t need to test anymore (yay!). She also said that once the doctor evaluated him in the morning, we could stop with the donor breastmilk (double yay!). So we stopped the blood sugar checks and waited for the doctor. At around noon, we still hadn’t seen the doctor and I was getting upset. He had had good blood sugars for over 12 hours but we were still supplementing. I asked the nurse if we could stop and she very rudely told me no, not until the doctor checked him out. Well where was this pediatrician!?
I got upset. I wanted to stop the supplementation. Not only was it no longer needed, but it was also hurting my supply because my son was getting his food from this supplementation instead of working to get my supply established (I was also nursing but if he was getting half his food from the supplementation instead of me, then it wasn’t helping to create my supply). The nurse brought in her supervisor and here is where things got really bad.
The nurse came armed with his list of blood sugars. She said that if we stop supplementing that he would need an IV. She said that he had low blood sugars yesterday and that we didn’t want it repeated. First off, threatening a new mom is not a good thing to do. Second, he had low blood sugars the first few hours which is normal but then he regulated and had higher blood sugars as time passed. Third, if it was true that the supplementation was the only thing keeping my son’s blood sugar high, how could she verify since we weren’t testing his blood sugar anymore and at some point, we would need to stop the supplementation right?
The nurse was very aggressive to me trying to prove her point about the supplementation. I’m not one to question too much medical providers but in this case, I didn’t agree with her. My first son had low blood sugar also so I wasn’t new to the issue. With my first, once we got three good blood sugars in a row, we stopped testing and we stopped supplementing and everything was fine!
After she was basically attacking me and threatening me with her chart of his blood sugars and threats of IVs and what not, I had had enough. I started to cry! What a nice nurse to make a new mom cry. I had had it. She wasn’t offering any solutions other than we had to keep supplementing. She wasn’t giving any evidence that it was or wasn’t working.
But we finally came to a resolution. We would check my son’s blood sugar again before and after we stopped supplementing. I did one more supplementation then we checked his blood sugar. It was not only above 40, it was 55! Then we waited a few more hours and re-tested and it was 54! So clearly the supplementation wasn’t necessary anymore. We finally were able to stop. The pediatrician also finally visited at around 4PM that afternoon and said my son looked fine.
I’m still pretty upset about the whole episode. My mommy instincts were telling me that everything was fine and that the supplementation wasn’t needed. I was so sad to hear we had to re-check my son’s blood sugars because it was so sad to see his poor heel being pricked. I’m glad the nurse finally compromised with me and we were FINALLY able to stop the supplementation. I’m mad that we did it as long as we did or that we even did it to begin with. I’m not an expert or a doctor but I do feel the mommy instinct is pretty powerful. I still wonder if I hadn’t been diabetic if they would have been so crazy about his blood sugars. I really wish I was given the chance to fix it on my own. We weren’t even given the option so we have no idea if it was even really needed. I wish we could have not done it and if his blood sugar was getting worse and not better then we could discuss the options then. I’m not sure if we are going to have another baby or not but if we do, I am going to go in armed with a ton of research (that I’ve done since this happened) to show that I’d rather try to treat the low on my own first. I wish they had focused more on the fact he had a lip and tongue tie that were causing weight gain issues then the non-issue of low blood sugar. At least all was well in the end and my baby is healthy.