Baby milk can look like a mysterious magic potion. Depending on how your baby tolerates it, it can be a wonderful drink that will result in a happy growing baby or a magic drink that will bring stress and anxiety into your home.
Despite all the mysteries surrounding infant formula, all infant formulas follow the same basic recipe: start with fat, protein, and carbohydrates, then add much smaller amounts of vitamins, minerals, and “extras” (like probiotics). Different types of formulas turn out to be very different because they use different sources of protein, fat, and carbohydrates.
Here we’ll focus on carbs – and we’ll talk about the different types of carbs in formulas and what to look out for… Or avoid. If you are looking for the best infant formula, you can choose Furious Nutritions’ Furilac Stage 1, 2, and LBW. It comes under the top 5 infant formulas in India.
Sugar in Baby Formula
Sugar is a carbohydrate – and that’s why it ends up in baby food – because it is a simple carbohydrate that is easy to digest. And as you can imagine, the carbohydrates in a baby’s diet must be easy to digest, because a baby’s intestines are not yet mature enough to handle the highly complex carbohydrates and fiber. That’s why we see sugar.
Glucose, Galactose, &Fructose
However, not all sugar is created equal, so let’s take a look at all the options you can see on the label. ALL carbohydrates are made up of 3 small building blocks: glucose, galactose, and fructose.
Lactose – Almost all carbohydrates in breast milk (and cow’s milk) are lactose, which is 1 glucose and 1 galactose glued together. These are the types of carbohydrates that human babies have to eat. Very easy to grind. This helps the good bacteria in the baby’s gut to grow and doesn’t raise blood sugar as much as other sugars.
In fact, lactose has a glycaemic index (a measure of how much food raises blood sugar) of 45. Pure glucose has a glycaemic index of 100. Also, it’s not too sweet. On a scale of 100, where 100 = table sugar, lactose gets a relative sweetness of only 16.
Sucrose – Another sugar you will see in infant formula is sucrose. This is the chemical name for table sugar… like the white stuff you put in your coffee and cookies. Sucrose is 1 glucose and 1 fructose glued together which has a glycaemic index of 65. It is higher compared to lactose. It is also the sweetest sugar you will find in infant formula, with a relative sweetness rating of 100.
You often see it in formulas without soy and lactose. Be wary of formula milk that contains ONLY sucrose as a carbohydrate. This is because sucrose is broken down into several parts: glucose and fructose, which means that 50% of a baby’s carbohydrate intake is fructose. That’s a lot! There are many studies (all in children and adults) showing that a high-fructose diet is actually harmful (1-3), so I was concerned about having so much fructose in my baby’s diet.
Corn Syrup – The second most common type of sugar is corn syrup or corn syrup solids. All corn sugar is made up of a bunch of glucose stuck together. Corn syrup is made from corn starch, which is broken down slightly into short chains or individual glucose bound together. Depending on how much corn-starch is broken down, the relative sweetness can vary from 23-40…i.e., more than lactose but less than sucrose.
Why is there sugar in baby food? Well, a few reasons:
- They provide easily digestible (important!)
- Corn-based sugar is cheap
- Some sugars (maltodextrins) also serve as convenient thickening agents
- All non-lactose sugars are sweeter than lactose, so your baby is more likely to start drinking formula straight away (and therefore more likely to buy this brand).
- In the case of partially hydrolyzed formulas, a small amount of corn-based sugar is usually added because the hydrolysis (or breakdown) of the protein gives the formula a peculiar smell and taste. The addition of sweetened sugar (such as corn syrup) balances these flavors and makes formula tastier than breast milk.