Q: Hello Dr Ketch, I am writing you all the way from South Africa, a new dad to a 3-day old baby boy. Well I have a concern…baby mama’s breasts seem to be secreting small doses of milk. In fact, yesterday she squeezed them and watery liquid came out, and I got worried that my son drinks water. And this morning baby mama messaged me from hospital (not yet discharged) and told me that baby’s glucose or sugar level is low. My first thought was that he is sucking water and becomes hungry quickly. Is there any way we can improve the situation because we really want him to breastfeed. Thanks.
A: Thanks for writing in and congratulations on your new bundle of joy!
Is your baby sucking water? Well, the first part of breast milk is mainly water with a little fat and is supposed to quench your baby’s thirst (this is why exclusively breastfed babies do not need water to be given to them. Breast milk has sufficient). Thereafter, the richer and creamier hind milk contains the tummy-filling fats and calories. In the first few days of birth, the milk produced, colostrum, is filled with a lot of important nutrients and antibodies that help fight disease. So, if your baby is getting enough breast milk, he is certainly getting more than water. Try and ensure baby spends at least 20 to 45 minutes nursing so as to get the fore and the hind milk. The only problem would be if the feeds are farther than 3 hours apart. In that case, there would be a lot of fore milk and baby may fill up on that before getting to the more filling hind milk. This means he gets hungry more often.
Low sugar level in new born babies does not necessarily suggest there is a problem. When babies are in the womb, they get their glucose (sugar) from their mothers through the umbilical cord and placenta. Some of this glucose is used as an immediate source of energy and the rest is stored in preparation for birth. At birth, with the first couple of hours, baby’s blood sugar level may be low as baby gets used to the idea of being on the ‘outside’. Thereafter, babies can access glucose from their stores until they are feeding well…usually about the 3rd day of life.
So, at about the third day, if baby’s mum is not making enough breast milk, then this may become a cause for concern and your wife’s doctors will determine an appropriate course of action which may include giving some formula in the meantime. They would know baby’s mum’s history and know if baby has any other medical condition that could pre-dispose to low blood sugar.
Babies who are more at risk of low blood sugar at birth include:
• Babies of diabetic mothers
• Babies born with low birth weight (less than 2.5kg)
• Babies who were distressed at birth
• Family history of children with low blood sugar
• Twin or (higher multiple) birth
• Babies with mothers taking medications that can put baby at risk of low blood sugar
How can we get mum to make more milk? First, she needs to keep putting baby to the breast…this is the most important and critical step. If the baby starts suckling on the breast, then the milk ejection reflex is stimulated and milk is let down. So, it is important that baby is put to the breast and indeed feed every 3 hours. If she is still in hospital, there will be lactation consultants at hand to help her and ensure that baby is latching on to the breast properly. She should drink sufficient water, rest and get as much help as possible. Some mothers would swear by different foods which increase their milk supply. In Nigeria, a lot of mothers would swear by pap with a lot of milk; others would swear by oatmeal. There’s no proof that these foods increase milk supply, but if you say it works for you, why not?! 😀
For more on this subject, please click on the following links:
Please give mum and baby a huge hug from me 🙂
Have a great night, people 😀