Is sucrose bad for babies? And is there sugar in formula: baby drinking from a bottle

If you look at the ingredients list for infant and baby formula, you might be surprised by what you come across. Two common ingredients are glucose and sucrose. As a parent, it’s our responsibility to understand not only what we’re purchasing, but also how it affects our child.

Cane sugar is one of the nasties you’ll want to avoid. Infant formula containing sugar could have an impact on your baby’s health. Not all sugars are bad, though, and it’s important to understand the difference between what is meant by ‘sugars’ and carbohydrates.

So let’s get down to the need-to-knows – is sucrose bad for babies, and does formula milk contain sugar? And what role do sucrose and glucose play in their lives? 

Sugars and sucrose in baby formula

One of the main sources of dietary energy for infants and toddlers includes digestible dietary carbohydrates (mainly lactose) and could include starches and other sugars. The basics to remember around ‘sugars’ for nutrition is that there are simple carbohydrates – the sugars – and complex carbohydrates – the fibres and starches.

Sugars can be further divided into monosaccharides and disaccharides. Monosaccharides are the simplest carbohydrates in that they cannot be broken down into smaller carbs. 

There are three monosaccharides – glucose, fructose, and galactose – that are paired to form three disaccharides – maltose, sucrose, and lactose. All of these sugars are primarily derived from plants, except for lactose and its component, galactose, which come from milk and milk products.

Role of sugar and sucrose in baby formula

Safe baby formula milk and breast milk contain “sugars”. The primary carbohydrate found in breast milk is lactose, which is an important source of energy and plays a vital role in the absorption of other micronutrients such as calcium. 

Lactose also has a prebiotic function and improves the microflora in the infant’s gut, which has been shown to reduce allergy risks and strengthen the infant’s immune systems.

Parents shouldn’t be concerned about whether or not a formula contains sugar but rather the type of simple carbohydrates it consists of. You should know if the sugar occurs naturally in the product or if it has been added. Added sugars are something you should stray away from. 

How to read food labels and check for sugar in baby formula

The key to knowing what the sugar content is in your baby’s formula lies in knowing how to read the food labels. This allows you to determine the amount of added sugar. The total carbohydrate content per 100g and 100ml will mainly be listed in the nutritional information table and underneath the phrases “of which lactose” or “of which sugars”.

Read the ingredients list to find out which ‘sugars’ are predominant and find a formula that works best for you. Ingredients are listed in descending order, which means that the first ingredient listed is the most prevalent in the product.

AS A PARENT WHO WANTS THE BEST FOR YOUR BABY, YOU WOULD WANT LACTOSE TO BE LISTED FIRST ON THE NUTRITION LABEL AND SUCROSE NOT TO EVEN TO BE ON THE LIST.

Adding glucose to baby formula

Added sugar or free sugars (sugars naturally present in products such as honey, syrup, and fruit juice) take on various names. Food labels state these sugar products as glucose syrup solids in baby formula, corn sugar, corn syrup and solids, high fructose corn syrup, and honey. 

A general tip to establish whether a food product is high in added sugars is if its ingredients list starts with any sugars or includes a few of them. There is also the option of purchasing a sucrose-free milk formula. 

Is maltodextrin bad in baby formula?

On the ingredients list, you may also see “maltodextrins” or “corn syrup” which fall under digestible carbohydrates. Maltodextrin is an easily digestible carbohydrate made from corn, rice, or potato starch that is then hydrolysed (broken down). 

These ingredients are often used to make up the carbohydrate profile when lactose is not the main carbohydrate used.

Sugar in formula milk and baby formula nutritional information

To establish whether or not a formula contains more of the ‘good’ sugars (such as lactose) than the ‘bad’ sugars (like cane sugar), the order in which these ingredients are listed says a lot. 

As a parent who wants the best for your baby, you would want lactose to be listed first on the nutrition label and sucrose in infant formula, not to even be on the list; for example, some Novalac formulas clearly demonstrate this.

Sugar formula: The goodies and the baddies

Finding the right formula for your little one is tricky. If you’re currently feeding your baby with a formula that includes sucrose and it’s working for them, there’s absolutely no need to change things up. 

Sugars and carbohydrates play an important role in our little one’s development. The issue comes with brands adding too much sucrose. Based on this article, take the time to read the ingredients and access what the first few ingredients are. You’ll also need to take note of how many “high-sugar” content ingredients are included in the produce. 

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Disclaimer: This post is based on personal experience and personal brand preference of the content author and has in no way been paid for or sponsored. BabyYumYum reserves the right to its opinions and fully supports the notion of promotion that breast is best in line with the World Health Organisation (WHO) infant feeding guidelines. Breast milk is the best food for infants. Good maternal nutrition is essential to prepare and maintain breastfeeding. If breastfeeding is not applied, an infant formula may be used according to the advice of healthcare professionals. Preparation and storage of any infant formula should be performed as directed on the tin in order not to pose any health hazards.

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