by Aoife Anderson
“What’s the best formula for my baby?” It’s the question on every new parent’s lips, especially if you’re feeling guilty about even considering formula. Since sugars are a critical part of both breast milk and infant formula, they're a good place to start when making a choice about formula.
Much more than a sweetener, sugars are actually easy-to-digest sources of carbohydrate that help your baby to grow and thrive, and they’re especially important for growth and development in their first year of life. However, despite what some might claim, not all sugars are created equal. Not by a long shot.
Your baby’s body may be small but it’s smart enough to identify and react to different sugars. This means the type of sugar, which will provide approximately 40% of the calories your baby eats, is an especially important consideration when you’re choosing an infant formula.
If you’ve ever tasted breast milk, you’ll know it’s surprisingly sweet. This is thanks to a high concentration of sugar that naturally occurs in human milk, called lactose. Using lactose to provide the same sugar in standard infant formulas is unquestionable, yet few formula companies choose to do so.
Here are a few more fun facts about lactose:
- It aids the absorption of calcium
- It’s a natural prebiotic that feeds the healthy bacteria in your baby’s gut
- It supports an efficient metabolism
- It’s less sweet than all other substitutes.
- It must provide at least 50% of the carbohydrates (sugars) in European formula. This is not the case in US formulations.
The quality and quantity of sugars consumed by infants and toddlers have been found to shape their metabolic health, food preferences and the consumption of sweet, high-energy foods later in life.
While very little research has been done on how commonly used alternative sugars, like corn syrup or sucrose (table sugar), impact the health of infants, countless medical studies have linked the consumption of large quantities of sugar and high fructose corn syrup to behavioral disorders, anxiety, insomnia in older children, as well as rising rates of childhood obesity and diabetes.
Ensuring your baby’s formula is packed with beneficial ingredients will help you to maximise their digestive health, biological functioning, and contribute to their lifelong well-being.