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14 Reasons Why Giving Sugar Water to Your Baby is a Mistake

14 Reasons Why Giving Sugar Water to Your Baby is a Huge Mistake
By Crystal Martinez

When I arrived at the hospital with my ten-day-old infant, I was surprised to see the nurses squeezing a liquid from a small plastic tube into his mouth, without my informed consent. I did question and they stated that it was to help with the pain of the procedures they were doing.

Now, of course, I don’t want my son to experience any more pain than he might already be going through, but, I also had a terrible feeling, deep down, that I shouldn’t be allowing this.

Unfortunately, being a brand new mother and in a state of complete shock to be in the hospital in the first place, it took me several days, over the course of which he received a dose about every two hours, before I finally researched it and requested for them to stop.

There are a few reasons why health professionals may try to give or recommend that you give your infant sugar water. The three most common are:

  • Pain Relief during invasive procedures such as circumcision, immunizations and blood withdrawals.
  • Hypoglycemia/Low Blood Sugar, especially in breastfed babies.
  • Constipation.

During my research, I came across a recent study which debunked the myth of using sugar water as an analgesic for infants. It stated that all previous studies were based on the fact that the babies given sugar water do not grimace, thus, giving the appearance of not feeling as much pain as the babies that were given plain water. In this study, the activity measured in the brain and spinal cords of both groups of babies was the exactly the same.

The study also went on to mention that the long-term effects of giving sugar water to infants are unknown and it’s possible that it may even cause neurological damage.

Here are some natural ways of easing your baby’s pain:

  • Non Nutritive Sucking (NNS)
  • Breastfeeding
  • Skin-to-Skin Contact

As for using it for Hypoglycemia, The American Academy of Pediatrics states the following with regard to Routine Evaluation of Glucose in Newborns:

“… no study has shown that treatment of a transient low blood glucose level offers a better short-term or long-term outcome than the outcome resulting with no treatment. … Furthermore, there is no evidence that asymptomatic hypoglycemic infants will benefit from treatment.”

This article is one of many which can back up that again, breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact are far more superior when it comes to keeping blood sugar in newborns stable.

Apparently, sugar water can work to help with constipation; however, there are additional ways of taking care of this without any risks including:

  • Laying baby on his/her back and moving the legs in a cycling motion gently puts pressure on the intestine and can stimulate a bowel movement.
  • Massaging baby’s tummy by using lotion/oil to rub the tummy in clockwise circular motions from the naval outwards.
  • A warm bath can help to relax baby and relieve some of the tension in the bowels.

It was, and probably still is to many health professionals, believed that sugar water is a good “natural” remedy which poses no negative adverse effects to babies.

While there have been no other studies that truly delve into this, let’s take a look at some pretty well known facts about sugar and how it can affect our bodies:

  • Promotes Obesity.
  • Can cause Diabetes.
  • Has been linked to Heart Disease.
  • Causes Inflammation in the body.
  • Promotes Cell Glycation.
  • Feeds Cancer Cells.
  • Can suppress the Immune System by 40%-50% for up to 5 hours.
  • Feeds the bad bacteria in your gut flora.
  • Causes behavioral problems in children.

Here are some ways that sugar water can affect infants specifically:

  • Increased risk of Bilirubin (Jaundice).
  • Excess weight loss.
  • Longer hospital stay.
  • May introduce contaminants or allergens, especially due to the use of GMO sugar.
  • Can cause Thrush in infants and spread it to their mother’s during breastfeeding.

We need to remember that newborns weigh about 5% what an adult does and have little to no gut flora, along with immature immune and neurological systems. They can be easily influenced by anything and everything that is introduced to them in those very important early days, no matter how small the amount they’re exposed to.

Although the risks and the chances of said risks are currently unknown, it is still a Russian Roulette game that is easy not to play in the first place, seeing as how there are plenty of other options available to choose from.

If I could do it all over again, I would immediately kindly decline the sugar water, and, if they tried to convince me of its magical pain relieving properties, I would simply smile, say that I understand, still choose not to consent, and then offer any one, or a combination, of the above-mentioned methods instead.

Please note: There may be rare situations which may warrant the recommended use of sugar water intravenously in order to prevent further complications. This article is not intended to disregard such circumstances. Rather, it is meant to provide awareness of a procedure that is not always necessary and to offer additional alternatives.

Was your baby given sugar water in the hospital? Or was it recommended by another health professional? Did you notice anything different in your baby or your breastfeeding relationship afterwards?


Crystal Martinez is a stay-at-home mom and wife.


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