When the mother cannot breastfeed for various reasons, she has to decide what baby formula to give to the baby. Parents choose baby formulas in different ways. They ask for their friends’ opinions, consult pediatricians, look for advice on the Internet, etc. Sometimes, the decisive factor is the taste of milk, whether it is easily digestible, whether it contains specific ingredients, or whether it is organic. Choosing what your child will eat until 3 is extremely important. And it is also important to approach it consciously and responsibly.
Many parents are uncertain about the formula’s ingredients. Sugars are a great area to begin researching since they are present in both breast milk and any infant formula, including Holle organic formula. Let’s talk about different sugars in baby formulas and why they are important.
Carbohydrate Sources in Infant Formulas
Sugars are not just sweeteners. They are the main energy source for a growing baby’s body. However, not all sugars in baby formulas are the same.
Lactose is the least cariogenic sugar and only such sugar is present in breast milk. Its concentration in breast milk is from 5.5 to 7.5%. It is an organic chemical disaccharide that breaks down in the small intestine into simple sugars: glucose and galactose. The enzyme lactase is needed to digest lactose.
Due to the multiple benefits of breast milk, which is the perfect diet for a baby, the best baby formulas are the ones that are the most similar to breast milk composition. For this reason, the European Commission requires lactose to be the primary carbohydrate source in infant formulas. You can find such products, for example, in an organic baby formula shop. The products offered there have lactose as the primary carb source and do not include sucrose or corn syrup.
In cow’s milk, the base of most baby formulas, lactose is present in fewer amounts than in human breast milk. Some manufacturers do not supplement this missing amount with lactose, because it is expensive. Instead of lactose, some brands use sweeteners of plant origin, e.g., corn syrup, glucose, brown rice syrup, and other sweeteners.
Regular table sugar, or sucrose, contains a single glucose and a single fructose molecule. It has a high glycemic index (65) and is the sweetest type of sugar present in baby formulas. The European Commission does not prohibit the use of sucrose in infant formulas, but sets restrictions on the amount of this substance that can be present in formulas and specifies the kinds of products to which it can be added (like specialist products for newborns).
In the USA, the use of corn syrup in baby formulas is not forbidden, like in the EU. It is a quick-acting carbohydrate with a sweetness rate higher than lactose but lower than sucrose. Most corn syrup produced in the US is derived from genetically modified corn, so using this product as the main carbohydrate source is not allowed by the European Commission. Still, some US manufacturers use it in baby formulas since it is an available and inexpensive option.
Maltodextrin is a variety of corn sugar with molecules broken down for simple digestion. It is a beneficial option for babies with sensitive tummies. It has a lower sweetness rate than corn syrup. The European Commission allows using small amounts of organic, GMO-free maltodextrin in baby formulas as an additional carbohydrate source.
Drawbacks of Sugars in Baby Formulas
Sucrose, corn syrup, and maltodextrin have a high glycemic index, meaning they cause an increase in blood glucose level and then a rapid insulin release. This affects periods of intense stimulation (high glucose level) and drowsiness (low glucose level, dangerous for the brain). Besides, regular intake of these sugars by an infant may lead to obesity, behavioral problems like ADD, tooth decay, and diabetes.