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Sweet News: Most Store Brand Baby Formulas Contain Lactose (Just like Breast Milk)

By Sandra Gordon

How sweet it is—breast milk, that is. Over the course of a feeding, it's thin and salty at first and ends richer in fat, tasting like a mild milkshake. Infant formula doesn't change its nutrient composition or consistency as your baby drinks it. But it's as milky and as sweet as breast milk, thanks to lactose, the milk sugar found both in human and cow's milk.

To mimic Mother Nature, lactose—extracted from cow's milk--is added to store brand infant formula (as well as many name-brand formulas) to match the human lactose concentration of breast milk. Lactose is an important carbohydrate in breast milk and baby formula because it affects taste and contributes to your baby's energy needs. Most store brand formulas contain lactose, including an organic baby formula, which features organic lactose, derived from organic cow's milk.

Some babies are sensitive to lactose, though, and some parents feel strongly that their baby not consume any animal products. For these reasons, Perrigo makes two lactose-free store brand formulas: Low-lactose formula (known as “Sensitivity” formula on store brand labels), which is sweetened with sucrose (table sugar), and a soy based formula, which contains corn syrup solids instead of lactose from cow's milk. Both forms of sugar are safe and appropriate and are approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a formula ingredient.

Take Care of Your Baby's Teeth

One caveat: Dental studies show that sucrose can harm a baby's tooth enamel faster than any other type of sugar because it can speed-stimulate cavity-causing bacteria in the mouth, which can erode tooth enamel. All infants can develop cavities after their first teeth appear. Whether your infant drinks Sensitivity baby formula or another formula that contains sucrose or not, you can easily protect your baby's teeth from decay by wiping them with a washcloth or gauze pad after every feeding. Just the friction from wiping teeth is enough to clean them and prevent bacteria and plague from getting the chance to set up shop in your baby's mouth. The Academy of General Dentistry recommends the tooth wipe down after every feeding (teeth or even just gums), even for breastfed babies. Products are also available just for this purpose, such as Spiffies,, flavored baby toothwipes.

About the Author

Sandra Gordon

Sandra Gordon is a consumer products expert, a writer, and a mother of two. She has appeared on NBC's Today Show and as a baby safety expert on The Discovery Health Channel's "Make Room for Baby." A Consumer Reports author, her latest book is Save a Bundle: 50+ Ways to Save Big on Baby Gear.

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