Managing Low Blood Sugars as a Mom with Type 1 Diabetes
Wake up, get the kids ready, make their lunches, somehow get yourself fed and ready at the same time, run to the car, get the kids to school, get yourself to work…at what point are moms supposed to have time to make sure their needs are covered, too?
(Yes, yes, we know you may have a partner who contributes and helps you manage the kids at every step of the way in 2022, too! But this article is just for you, mama!)
Diabetes care has to fit in somewhere and not making it a priority as a parent can have both immediate and long-term consequences. Preventing severe low blood sugar events (severe hypoglycemia) and long-term diabetes complications deserves to be a daily concern and priority in your life.
We know your time is limited, so here are some simple, actionable tips to make sure you’re taken care of too!
First, remember that self-care isn’t selfish
Establishing limits and boundaries in your day can help you achieve better work-life integration, but that’s a lot easier said than done! It’s often not as simple as “simply” incorporating “me time” as a mom with type 1 diabetes.
Usually, it doesn’t feel like there’s enough time in a day! Even when you do find “extra time,” it may feel like you’re the last person you should be giving your time to. But it’s important to remember that self-care isn’t selfish.
We know that parenting is a full-time job on top of your other work. Parenting is a selfless and simultaneously rewarding and exhausting task. Making time for your type 1 diabetes management shouldn’t come with guilt. It’s okay to take a step back and focus on yourself.
It’s also okay to ask for help and lean on others when you feel like you can’t take it all on alone. Asking for help and taking time to focus on you doesn’t make you less of a great mom.
Create a blood sugar checking schedule or get a CGM
When your schedule is already jam-packed with family and work tasks, managing type 1 diabetes may come third. Creating a firm daily schedule for when you check your blood sugar isn’t easy to do as a parent, but it’s critical for your short and long-term health!
Checking your blood sugar at least two to four times per day with a blood glucose meter (BGM) can help you see when your blood sugar is falling and prevent you from going even lower. You can schedule daily alerts on your phone or fitness watch reminding you to stop and check your blood sugar.
You may also consider investing in a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), which can send you automated alerts when your blood sugar is falling or when you already have low blood sugar. (CGMs can also help reduce the number of daily fingerpricks you need significantly, which may provide added relief for some moms with type 1 diabetes!)
CGMs can help take some blood sugar management work out of the equation for you—making diabetes management less hands-on and more automated without sacrificing your diabetes care. Talk to your doctor about your CGM options.
Getting a CGM may be your next best type 1 diabetes management move as a parent!
Store low blood sugar snacks at home out of sight or in disguise
First, talk to your children frankly about the candy in your pocket, purse, or nightstand. Explain to them: this candy is what mommy uses for medicine when my blood sugar is low. It’s not for eating as a snack. You have your candy stash in the kitchen, mommy keeps her medicine candy right here. Please don’t eat it.
You may need to have this conversation many times before they fully grasp it.
If your kiddos are too young to realize the importance of your candy stash to treat lows, but just old enough to still reach for it, you may decide to create a disguised storage system. If you prefer to store your snacks in the pantry, invest in a storage bin (that isn’t clear) with a lid and label it as something other than “low blood sugar snacks” (if your kids are privy).
Call it “canned vegetables” or “laundry supplies”—whatever they’re least interested in! You could also save money and take a used container of something they don’t like, such as a large coffee canister, and put your low blood sugar snacks in it on the top shelf of your pantry.
Don’t be afraid to get creative! You gotta do what you gotta do to protect yourself from the outcomes of untreated severe hypoglycemia. If your kids do see your snacks or catch on, always be sure to refill your supplies. Setting a calendar reminder to double-check may be helpful if you’re a planner. You could also leave yourself a note next to your storage containers if you’re not a planner.
If they are old enough to understand and you don’t feel the need to get clever, be direct and cut to the chase—let them know these are only for you. Every family has a different dynamic with different needs. Depending on the age of your children, you may find that they respond better to one method over another. Try different things.
Teach your kids about diabetes and when to help you
If your kids are old enough to understand what you go through with type 1 diabetes, start the conversation about how they can help you when you experience severe hypoglycemia.
Teach them the basics and the next steps in an emergency:
- Signs and symptoms of low blood sugar
- How you feel when she’s low (you might need space and quiet)
- What kind of food or drink to bring you if can communicate but not walk
- How to call for help on your phone: 911 or an adult
- Where you store your emergency glucagon
We’re not just talking about what you need in terms of food or beverages to treat your low blood sugar levels either—we’re talking about being transparent with your kids. Even when managing mild low blood sugars, you can teach your child that you need to stop, sit down, eat and wait. Give your children a purpose to help them feel calm in those situations: their purpose is to support mommy. Let them care for you in the best way they can at their age.
If you are not safe, you cannot keep them safe. Let them help you.
Take it one day at a time
Managing type 1 diabetes can be a frustrating chore day in and day out.
When days get hard, remember that you are doing your best. You’re human. You don’t need the added pressure of being hard on yourself. You are bound to experience many highs and lows throughout your life with type 1 diabetes. It happens! No one is perfect at managing diabetes, whether you have children or not.
One of the most important ingredients in thriving with diabetes is brushing yourself off and trying again!
The more you do it, the better you will be at creating a sustainable type 1 diabetes management plan tailored to you that can help you prevent and treat low blood sugars with ease.
You got this, and you are making your kiddos proud, type 1 diabetic (T1D) mama!
Educational content related to type 1 diabetes is made possible with support from Lilly Diabetes, an active partner of Beyond Type 1 at the time of publication. Beyond Type 1 maintains full editorial control of all content published on our platforms.