Your Bump is a Baby Gourmet!

by Caitlyn Stace

expectant mom noms on a carrotDo you want your baby to develop a taste for healthier and more adventurous foods? It doesn't require magic but you can make it happen by eating them yourself! Research has found that babies in the womb not only are nourished by their mother's meals, but they taste them and learn to recognize and prefer those flavors, too!

Are you excited to introduce your baby to the wonders of your favorite food? No need to put the introduction off! A baby's first experiments with taste happen long before birth. The amniotic fluid that cushions your baby in the womb isn't just bland, tasteless stuff. Instead it's flavored by the foods and beverages you've eaten the last few hours. Now that's food for thought!

Flavor Learning Begins in the Womb

Researchers from the Monell Chemical Sense Center tested this concept by giving pregnant women garlic or sugar capsules before taking a sample of amniotic fluid. They asked a group of people to smell the samples. The panel easily picked out which of the women had eaten garlic. The results show that many other flavors and scents appear in amniotic fluid and breast milk.

Julie Mennella, head researcher says, "Not only is the amniotic fluid and breast milk flavored by food, but memories of these flavors are formed even before birth. That could result in preferences for these foods for a lifetime. In other words, if you eat broccoli while you're pregnant, there's a much better chance your baby will like broccoli."

Beyond developing a gourmet palette, babies can acquire nutritional intelligence that could help them choose a healthful diet later in life. Studies suggest this intelligence begins with food imprinting during pregnancy. Your baby has highly developed taste buds as early as the second and third trimesters.

Through "practice meals" of amniotic fluid, tiny ones get to experience whatever mom is eating. They remember flavors from this time in the womb and seek them out after birth. According to contributing expert Dr. Alan Greene, this process explains why adopted infants, when swept off to a new culture, years later innately prefer their native cuisine — even though they may never have actually eaten it in the conventional sense.

University of Florida taste researcher, Linda Bartoshuk says, "Babies are born with very few hard and fast taste preferences." She says Mennella's work shows that very early exposures to flavors -- both before and after birth -- make it more likely that children will enjoy a wide variety of flavors. When those early exposures are reinforced over a lifetime, Bartoshuk thinks they might promote healthy eating habits.

Raising a Baby Gourmet

To raise an adventurous eater, follow these simple steps:

  1. Introduce different flavors early -- in the womb. That healthful diet with a variety of flavors and colors will introduce your tiny diner to excellent food for optimal development now and in the future!
  2. Enforce familiarity when breastfeeding. Foods in your diet flavor
    breast milk. Try to aat the foods that you'd like your toddler and preschooler to enjoy more often.
  3. Baby see, baby do... If your baby sees you eating healthy foods, those same "goodies" will be the most desired later.
  4. Think outside the jar. Make your own colorful, flavor-filled foods for your tiny gourmet. Check out these baby food tips.
  5. Offer your adventurous toddler a varied diet. To accept a food, toddlers must see and taste it -- even a familiar food -- over and over.

About the study: Beauchamp G, Mennella J. Flavor Perception in Human Infants: Development and Functional Significance. Digestion. A group of pregnant women was divided into three factions. One group drank carrot juice every day during their pregnancies, the second drank carrot juice while breastfeeding, and the third ate no carrots or carrot juice at all. When the children began eating solid foods, they were given cereal either made with water or carrot juice. Researchers found that the babies who had been exposed to carrot while in the womb or while drinking breast milk ate more of the carrot cereal.

What foods do you think your baby will end up liking?