Can You Add Flavor to Baby Formula?
Perhaps you’re worried your little one isn’t feeding as much as they should be, and you’re wondering if adding some flavor might help.
Or you’re using a hypoallergenic, hydrolyzed formula, and you’re finding that it smells bad and possibly doesn’t taste so good either.
Or maybe you’re mix feeding and find that the formula you give doesn’t taste as sweet as breastmilk…
Whatever your reason for considering adding flavor to your baby’s milk, it’s important to understand what’s already in the formula, and why most of the time, adding flavor or sweeteners isn’t a good idea.
Why you should never sweeten formula
If you’re thinking about flavoring your little one’s formula, a simple sweetener might seem like the obvious choice, but it’s important not to do this. Formula is already sweetened with sugar in one form or another.
Just as the natural lactose in breastmilk makes it sweet, so formula manufacturers add sweeteners to their products. This might include corn maltodextrin, sucrose, corn syrup or lactose.
Babies need carbs to fuel their growth, and the sugars in their milk provide them. But adding more sugar would be harmful – your baby doesn’t need, and shouldn’t have, more.
Extra sugars could give them a taste for sweet foods and potentially contribute to overeating and the risk of obesity later on. For this reason, European regulations prohibit the use of simple sugars like corn syrup in formula, and most European organic formula brands use nutritious natural lactose instead.
What about adding other flavors?
If you find it’s a battle to get your baby to finish their feeds, or they’re losing weight, you’re probably desperate to find a way to get them to take more milk. This is an especially common problem for babies on hypoallergenic formulas, which do taste different to regular formulas. Some babies will reject these specialty formulas as a result.
You can flavor formula if you need to in order to get your baby to drink it, but only if your pediatrician recommends it. They might suggest a tiny amount of non-alcoholic vanilla flavor, or possibly a small amount of fruit juice or puree, if they’re already weaning. Never add a fruit flavor or puree for babies who haven’t weaned, as they need to be used to digesting other foods first.
If you do need to flavor, always act with caution, and never without medical advice.
Do some formulas taste better than others?
Hydrolyzed allergy-friendly formulas aside, many fussy babies find natural, organic formulas more appealing than regular formulas.If your baby is struggling with their store-bought formula, try them on a European organic brand. These formulas are generally easier to digest and closer to breastmilk than store-bought brands.