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Sweeteners in Maternal Diet and Their Effects on Infant Weight


It has been widely reported that the diet of a breastfeeding mother influences the nutritional composition of milk that she is producing. However, the variability in human milk when it comes to the content of different chemical compounds remains understudied. There is a necessity to collect as much information as possible on maternal diets and the influence of sugar consumption on the milk that is being produced. Even though there is extensive research that found direct associations between mothers’ dietary habits and the health of infants that consume breastmilk, the specific topic of sugar consumption’s impact on infants’ weight is limited.

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The aim of the current exploration was to locate relevant literature on the identified topic through a comprehensive literature search. By exploring ten articles from published scholarly journals, several conclusions could be made. Most studies point to the need for mothers to watch the consumption of unhealthy foods to provide the highest quality of milk for infants. As to the specific correlation between sugar and infants’ weight, it was shown that lactose could increase body weight and other cardiovascular risk factors in both mothers and children.


To explore the identified topic, a literature search was conducted; it is a systematic and highly organized search through the already published data for identifying a breadth of relevant and high-quality references. The main objective of a thorough literature search is formulating a research question by means of evaluating the existing literature, focusing on the gaps in knowledge that should be filled. A research problem represents the critical topic of interest and usually bears familiarity to the researcher. It needs to be channelized by focusing on the information that is yet to be explored (Grewal, Kataria, & Dhawan, 2016; Bravi et al., 2016). Once a researcher has narrowed down a problem, searching and analyzing available literature related to it may further strengthen and support the research approach.

In the current assessment, a literature review was conducted, capturing two types of literature, such as guidelines published by reputable governmental and non-governmental organizations and research articles published in scholarly journals. Through the search of several databases, such as PubMed, Cochrane Library, Google Scholar, and EBSCOhost, ten documents were identified. Published studies were allocated with the help of a keyword search and pearl growing, which is a method of finding relevant literature using a relevant source. The keywords used in the search included breastfeeding diet, infant weight, maternal diet, infant diet, and sweeteners during breastfeeding.

In the allocated literature, the sections that were relevant to the subject matter at hand were explored several times with the aim of determining the critical stages of the research methodology. In addition, the data was reviewed for identifying the points of agreement and areas of important guidance between the documents, with the focus placed on the impact of breastfeeding women’s diet on infant weight. Any information that was complementary to the key information was not included in the analysis of results.


The general consensus among the majority of articles included in the search of literature and analysis is that a woman’s breastfeeding diet has a direct influence on the nutritional makeup of breast milk and, subsequently, the weight of infants (Bravi et al., 2016; Murray, 2017). During the early stages of infant development, the sweetness of sugars may have the capacity of hindering or helping to lay a strong nutritional foundation for food preferences that may often extend throughout the lifetime (Mannella, Bobowski, & Reed, 2017). Notably, an initial relationship of a child with sweetness begins before birth and continues evolving with the help of complementary feeding. Specifically, the sweetness of breastmilk encourages consumption and soothes an infant (Murray, 2017).

Within observational studies, the majority of information concerning maternal diets was acquired from self-administered food-frequency surveys or dietary recalls (Antonakou, 2011; Daud et al., 2013). It was found that sugars contained in the diet have shown to increase excess adiposity in adults and children, and the exploration of the effect of fructose content in breastmilk on body composition throughout infancy revealed important takeaways (Goran et al., 2017; Stanhope, 2016).

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As indicated by Goran et al. (2017), a one-month-old consuming the amount of fructose that is equivalent to the weight of a grain of rice (10 mg) in a full day’s breast milk serving can be associated with the increased body weight as well as muscle and bone mineral content. The sugars consumed by infants are considered “second-hand sugars” that get into the breastmilk content through the diets of mothers (Goran et al., 2017). Fructose makes its way into the diets of mothers through fruit consumption, processed foods, as well as sweetened beverages (Berger et al., 2018). However, lactose, which is natural to breastmilk helps infants develop and grow because it is the primary source of carbohydrate energy (Martin, 2016).

Beyond regular sweeteners, mothers’ consumption of low-calorie sweeteners has also been shown to trigger increased weight among infants. As found by the University of Calgary (2020) and Nettleton et al. (2020), even though low-calorie sweeteners are considered generally safe to consume throughout pregnancy and lactation periods, evidence suggests that they can also increase body weight and other cardiovascular risk factors in both mothers and children. Another important finding of Nettleton et al. (2020) is that sweeteners, even artificial ones, would affect the composition of gut microbiota.

The study using animals showed that the changes to a mother’s microbiota and metabolism, as associated with the consumption of sugars, were sufficient enough to change the microbiota in the offspring and trigger obesity (Nettleton et al., 2020). Therefore, healthy pregnancy and breastfeeding as related to good nutrition and the reduction of fructose consumption by mothers are essential for preventing adverse weight implications in infants.


Breastfeeding remains an essential source of nutrition for infants, although there is significant variance in the content of breast milk between individuals and over time due to the factors that impact its composition. The difference in its makeup can be associated with their diet during lactation, which encourages an increased need to study the associations between infants’ health and breastmilk composition (Ballard & Morrow, 2013).

The findings of studies on breastfeeding mothers’ sugar consumption and its influence on infants’ body weight are currently limited, which points to the need for future research on the issue. The research showed that the transmission of sugars from the diets of mothers into their breastmilk would negatively affect the regulation of children’s appetite, and increased the risk of overweight and obesity, as well as lay a foundation for the potential of metabolic or cardiovascular issues. As opposed to lactose, which is a healthy sugar for infants, even low concentrations of fructose in breast milk were found to be associated with an increased body weight of infants and body composition.

The findings of studies confirmed the general hypothesis that sugars are not generally beneficial parts of infants’ nutrition. The evidence provided in research shows that mothers who breastfeed should consider reducing their fructose consumption because it tends to remain in the composition of their breastmilk for around five hours after consumption (Berger et al., 2018). Since infants are usually being fed every three hours on average in the first month of their life, they may be in the window for the multiple exposures to fructose.

The limitations of the research studies should also be taken into consideration as the majority of them utilized generally small samples that are racially and demographically homogenous. Besides, the data collected for analysis relied on self-administered questionnaires that may not offer the necessary level of credibility as participants may make mistakes or have altered judgments. There is a need for a more broad and representative study that would capture a larger population size and would rely less on participant-dependent data due to the need to collect more information on mothers’ dietary habits when it comes to the consumption of sugar.

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In the studies, there was also no assessment of biochemical parameters that would indicate any metabolic anomalies in breast milk, such as insulin. Overall, the research is consistent in showing that mothers’ consumption of sugar would lead to adverse health consequences for infants’ weight and further nutritional complications. Nevertheless, the consequences of the consistent increase of fructose content in breast milk for infants need to be further explored.


Antonakou, A., Chiou, A., Andrikopoulos, N. K., Bakoula, C., & Matalas, A. L. (2011). Breast milk tocopherol content during the first six months in exclusively breastfeeding Greek women. European Journal of Nutrition, 50(3), 195-202. Web.

Ballard, O., & Morrow, A. L. (2013). Human milk composition: Nutrients and bioactive factors. Pediatric clinics of North America, 60(1), 49-74. Web.

Berger, P. K., Fields, D. A., Demerath, E. W., Fujiwara, H., & Goran, M. I. (2018). High-fructose corn-syrup-sweetened beverage intake increases 5-hour breast milk fructose concentrations in lactating women. Nutrients, 10(6), 669. Web.

Bravi, F., Wiens, F., Decarli, A., Dal Pont, A., Agostoni, C., & Ferraroni, M. (2016). Impact of maternal nutrition on breast-milk composition: A systematic review. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 104(3), 646-662.

Daud, A. Z., Mohd-Esa, N., Azlan, A., & Chan, Y. M. (2013). The trans fatty acid content in human milk and its association with maternal diet among lactating mothers in Malaysia. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 22(3), 431-442. Web.

Goran, M. I., Martin, A. A., Alderete, T. L., Fujiwara, H., & Fields, D. A. (2017). Fructose in breast milk is positively associated with infant body composition at 6 months of age. Nutrients, 9(2), 146. Web.

Grewal, A., Kataria, H., & Dhawan, I. (2016). Literature search for research planning and identification of research problem. Indian Journal of Anesthesia, 60(9), 635-639. Web.

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Martin, C. R., Ling, P. R., & Blackburn, G. L. (2016). Review of infant feeding: Key features of breast milk and infant formula. Nutrients, 8(5), 279. Web.

Mennella, J. A., Bobowski, N. K., & Reed, D. R. (2016). The development of sweet taste: From biology to hedonics. Reviews in Endocrine & Metabolic Disorders, 17(2), 171-178. Web.

Murray, R. (2017). Savoring sweet: Sugars in infant and toddler feeding. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 70(suppl 3), 38-46. Web.

Nettleton, J., Cho, N., Klancic, T., Nicolucci, A., Shearer, J., Borgland, S., … Reimer, R. (2020). Maternal low-dose aspartame and stevia consumption with an obesogenic diet alters metabolism, gut microbiota and mesolimbic reward system in rat dams and their offspring. Gut. Web.

Stanhope K. L. (2016). Sugar consumption, metabolic disease and obesity: The state of the controversy. Critical Reviews in Clinical Laboratory Sciences, 53(1), 52-67. Web.

The University of Calgary. (2020). Low-calorie sweeteners do not mean low risk for infants. Science Daily. Web.

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