By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Premature or low birth weight babies will not
develop hypoglycaemia or low blood sugar levels if they are breastfed.
A research study by a team of doctors from the State reveals that
complications related to abnormal fall in blood glucose levels can be
prevented in 95 per cent of the cases of premature or low birth weight
babies exclusively fed on mother’s milk.
The researchers from the department of paediatrics, Maharajah’s
Institute of Medical Sciences, Vizianagaram, studied about 100 low
birth babies and the impact of breastfeeding in the maintenance of
blood sugar levels. The babies in the study weighed less than 2.5 kgs.
They have found that breastfed babies, though born premature or
underweight, would continue to have normal blood glucose levels
“Ninety five per cent of low birth weight neonates maintained adequate
blood sugar levels during the first 72 hours of life with breast milk
irrespective of gestational age and birth weight studied. Single
episode of hypoglycemia occurred in five per cent of these low birth
weight babies,” said Dr VSSY Murthy and Dr Kethireddy Dinendra Ram in
their study published in the newly launched Journal of NTR University
of Health Sciences, Vijayawada.
The foetus is entirely dependent on the mother for glucose. At the
time of birth, the neonate must abruptly switch from having a
continuous supply of glucose from maternal blood in foetal life to
maintaining its own supply of glucose during periods of fasting and
when feedings are interspersed intermittently. Disturbances of
metabolic and endocrine systems may frequently occur in neonates,
because of developmental immaturity, they said.
The study pointed out that blood sugar values are influenced by birth
weight, gestational age, feeding method, and postnatal age. In low
birth weight babies the liver weight is much reduced, whereas the
brain weight remains within normal limits, so that the ratio of brain
weight to liver weight is greater than five. This along with several
other factors related to intrauterine growth retardation and
prematurity, result in hypoglycemia with its potential complications.
Neonatal hypoglycemia, even if asymptomatic, could lead to long-term
adverse neuro-developmental impairment. In preterm infants with
repetitive decrease in glucose level less than 47mg/dl were associated
with reduced mental and motor developmental scores and increased
neuro-developmental impairment, they warned.
Neonatal hypoglycemia is not a medical condition in itself, but a
feature of illness or of failure to adapt from the foetal state of
continuous trans-placental glucose consumption to the extra-uterine
pattern of intermittent nutrient supply.
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