Everyone wants a little sweetness in their life. Breastfeeding moms are no exception. While breastfeeding is a great way to shed those excess pregnancy pounds, some moms may want to use their caloric allowances on things other than sugar. This may lead them to consider artificial sweeteners. They have numerous options to choose from:
- Nutrasweet in blue packets (aka Aspartame)
- Splenda in yellow packets (aka Sucralose)
- Saccharin in pink packets
- Stevia in green packets
- Acesulfame K
It seems every few years an alarming study is published warning about the dangers of one or more of these sweeteners.
This year, researchers Stephanie Olivier-Van Stichelen, Kristina I. Rother and John A. Hanover published the results from their study linking consumption of the sweeteners Sucralose and Acesulfame K during pregnancy and breastfeeding to metabolic changes the authors called “drastic.” They contend these changes could result in an increased risk of developing diabetes and decrease the liver’s ability to deal with toxins.
Any time you mention diabetes or the liver, a mom is sure to take notice. Before swearing off artificial sweeteners though, the savvy mom will want to take several things into consideration.
- Is the concern stated in this new study warranted?
- The study was performed on mice.
- The mice were fed the equivalent of twenty cans of diet soda per day.
- Is this really new information?
- Earlier research has shown that Saccharin, Sucralose and Stevia do change the composition of the bacteria in the gut.
- Does the artificial sweetener even show up in measurable amounts in breast milk?
- Acesulfame, Saccharin and Sucralose do pass into breast milk.
- There has been no data published on Stevia levels in breast milk.
- Due to the fact that it’s rapidly metabolized in the GI tract, Aspartame does not show up in breast milk.
- Furthermore, some studies have shown using artificial sweeteners actually resulted in weight gain.
All this conflicting information is enough to make a breastfeeding mom just want to binge on some brownies. After she has come down off her sugar rush though, there are some reassuring guidelines she can use to make her decision.
- The FDA classifies these sweeteners as safe.
- Artificial sweeteners are in a variety of foods. If a mom wants to use them in moderation, then she needs to read her labels.
Dr. Thomas Hale of the Infant Risk Center and creator of the popular free app, MommyMeds, has given these classifications to the following artificial sweeteners:
- Moderately Safe – Saccharin, Stevia, Acesulfame
- Safer – Sucralose
- Safest – Aspartame
When considering sweeteners there’s always the option of just using regular, old sugar in moderation. A teaspoon of sugar is just 15 calories.
While headlines can be alarming, fortunately, there’s an abundance of information out there so breastfeeding moms can make a well-informed decision when she chooses her sweetener options.
*Author Andrea Tran RN, MA, IBCLC is a nurse and lactation specialist.
Artificial Sweeteners & Breastfeeding: Valid Concern or Hype: Sources
Effects of Sweeteners on the Gut Microbiota: A Review of Experimental Studies and Clinical Trials
Infant Risk Center
LeapsMag.com – Artificial Sweeteners and Breastfeeding