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What You Need to Know About Sugar in Baby Formula

If you’ve been doing your homework about baby formula, you’ve probably heard a lot of buzz about baby formula and sugar. Sugar always gets a bad rap because too much of it can lead to obesity and dental problems, among other things.

But, sugar can sometimes be a good thing, even in baby formula…you just need to know which type you’re dealing with and how much is in there because all sugars are not created equal. Some are okay and others your baby should avoid at all costs.

It’s time to get to the bottom of the sugar bowl and look at what types of sugar are used in baby formula so you choose the right baby formula.

Why does baby formula have sugar?

Many people may not realize that there is sugar in breast milk. Breast milk contains around 7 percent lactose. Lactose is the sugar (carbohydrate) found in milk and milk products. You’ll find it in the milk of all mammals, but nowhere else in nature. This is why formulas contain lactose.

Since most babies don’t have a problem digesting sugar, it’s the carbohydrate that often ends up in baby formula. Babies can’t easily digest lots of complex carbohydrates and fiber. While lactose is okay, you don’t want to see all types of sugars in baby formula.

Different Types of Sugar Found in Baby Formula

If you’re a label-reader (and you should be), you’ll notice different types of sugar may be loaded into your baby’s formula. Let’s take a look at what you may be seeing so you know exactly what’s going into your baby’s tummy.


As we mentioned, lactose is the main sugar found in breast milk and is often the preferred carbohydrate source for babies. It also scores very low on the glycemic index scale (45), which means it doesn’t increase blood sugar levels as quickly as other sugars and is slow to metabolize.


Another sugar you may see as an ingredient in baby formula is sucrose otherwise known as table sugar. This is one you don’t want to see in baby formula because it is extremely sweet and also scores a 65 on the glycemic index. Sucrose is often used in formula that is soy-based or lactose-free.

Corn Syrup & Corn Syrup Solids

Corn syrup is derived from cornstarch while corn syrup solids are further processed corn syrup, neither of which you want in your baby’s formula. Corn syrup is a very common lactose substitute in baby formula made in the U.S. It’s inexpensive and there’s plenty of it, making it an attractive ingredient for many manufacturers. The European Commission bans corn syrup solids in infant formulas, so you will not find that ingredient in any of the formulas sold at Organic Baby

When corn syrup is used in baby formula there is a chance it was sourced from GMO corn. Many parents want to stay away from GMOs in baby formula. Also, there are concerns about the high glycemic index of corn syrup. Baby formula with corn syrup or corn syrup solids can increase blood sugar more quickly than formula that is lactose-based.

Glucose Syrup

Glucose syrup is basically the same as corn syrup, except for the fact that it may have been sourced from another plant besides corn. Some baby formulas made in the U.S. use glucose syrup or glucose syrup solids as a carbohydrate source.


Maltodextrin is typically derived from corn and is made by a similar process to how corn syrup solids are made. But, it is only mildly sweet unlike corn syrup and corn syrup solids. Despite this, it has a ranking of over 100 on the glycemic index. Maltodextrin is usually used as an additive in baby formula to give it a thicker texture.


Fructose is a sugar that can be found in fruit, juices, honey, and certain vegetables. But, it’s also included in high fructose corn syrup and added to sodas and candies. Too much fructose from processed foods can lead to liver fat which is linked to diabetes and heart disease. It’s important to note that fructose is not a carbohydrate that is naturally found in breast milk.

Sugar & Baby Formula from Organic Baby

At Organic Baby, you’ll find baby formula from Holle, HiPP, and Jovie, all full of organic ingredients that are good for your baby. Lactose is used as an ingredient to help mimic the texture and taste to that of breast milk. Following the guidelines from the European Commission, there are corn syrup products in the formulas we sell.

At Organic, we believe in only offering products that are good for your baby and his development. You won’t find harmful sugars or any GMO products. If you have more questions about sugars in baby formula, feel free to contact us online so that we can provide you with the answers you need to make good choices about your baby’s nutrition.