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The Effects of Sugar on Breastfed Babies

author image Tammy Quinn Mckillip
Tammy Quinn McKillip has written extensively in print and online publications about pets, parenting, theater, design, health and environmentalism since 1999. She is the editor of the Macaroni Kid National Family Safety newsletter and publisher and editor of "Macaroni Kid," a local family-friendly weekly events newsletter. She is pursuing her Master of Fine Arts in creative writing at City College of New York.
The Effects of Sugar on Breastfed Babies
A baby breast feeding from her mother. Photo Credit szeyuen/iStock/Getty Images

Feeding your baby nothing but breast milk for the first six months can ensure that he receives beneficial nutrients to help protect him from digestive and respiratory illnesses, including colic, heart problems, kidney and ear infections, as well as tooth decay. Breastfed babies also develop fewer food allergies than their formula-fed counterparts, according to AskDrSears.com. Since your body is manufacturing your baby's food during the breastfeeding months, it is important that you maintain a well-balanced, healthy diet.

Lactose in Breast Milk

You may find that you crave high-calorie or fatty foods during your breastfeeding months, but unless you are binging on sugary snacks, chances are the levels of lactose (milk sugar) in your breast milk remain constant. Each 100 milliliters of mature breast milk (produced after the first three weeks of lactation) supplies your baby with approximately 70 calories, made up of carbohydrates, proteins and fats, regardless of your diet, according to a report by Britain's Department of Health and Social Security, quoted in ParentingScience.com.

Sugary Diet

Eating too many high-sugar, fatty or salty foods during pregnancy or while breastfeeding could make your baby prone to obesity later in life. A 2007 Royal Veterinary College of London study published on ScienceDaily.com suggests that eating empty calories while breastfeeding can impair a baby's ability to control her appetite and promote junk-food cravings as she matures. Though the breast milk of a mother who consumes a high-sugar diet may contain the same level of lactose as a mother whose diet is healthy, it may also contain subtle chemistry that overstimulates reward centers in the baby's brain and alters the hormonal signals that tell the baby when to stop eating.

Tooth Decay

Babies who are breastfed are less likely to get tooth decay than formula-fed babies, according to the Australian Breastfeeding Association. Naturally occurring antibodies in your breast milk help to inhibit the growth of bacteria in your baby's mouth. And while these bacteria thrive on sucrose, the form of sugar found in infant formula, they are less likely to make use of the lactose found in breast milk. Instead, lactoferrin proteins in breast milk protect your child's new teeth by helping to kill bacteria that causes decay. In addition, sugars that might pool in your baby's mouth when sucking freely on a bottle are reflexively swallowed when your baby's mouth releases your breast nipple during feedings.

Breastfeeding and Thrush

Thrush is a contagious yeast infection that could affect you or your baby during breastfeeding, when the combination of warmth, moisture and sugars can contribute to fungi on your nipples and in your baby's mouth. Breastfeeding babies are more prone to thrush than bottle-fed babies because the sugars in breast milk feed the yeast, which can grow in small cracks in and around a mother's nipples over time. The yeast is then transferred to the baby's mouth during feedings. Taking antibiotics can increase the likelihood of developing thrush, as can oral contraceptives or steroid medications. Thrush can be treated by oral or topical medications and vigilant hygiene, and it may possibly be improved by lowering the yeast and sugar content in the mother's diet, according to La Leche League International.

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