Can pregnancy nutrition impact a child’s food preferences?

Can babies taste the foods their mothers eat while pregnant?

With thanks to Leanne Thompson, Leanne Helena Nutrition

If you’re battling morning sickness or food aversions (or both!) the last thing on your mind whilst pregnant may be nutrition, but it has been found that babies can taste the food that their mothers have eaten. After consuming a meal, some food particles are passed from mother to baby and float around in the amniotic fluid. Foetal taste receptors start developing and maturing between trimesters 1 and 2, and at 12 weeks your baby starts swallowing, taking in amniotic fluid and the food particles. This means that your baby is able to taste, and later smell, what you have eaten and introduces them to the world of food even before they’ve left the womb.  Babies are born with a preference for sweet foods whereas bitter tastes are often rejected. From an evolutionary perspective this is potentially due to survival mechanism which prevents people eating poisonous foods, which are often bitter in taste. Whilst this is helpful at first, as breast and formula milk are sweet, when you first start weaning it can make introducing bitter vegetables to your baby a bit harder. It can take many attempts before your baby finally accepts these ‘odd’ flavours and starts enjoying them. So, can you encourage your baby to like vegetables before they’re even born?

Can what you eat whilst pregnant affect which foods your baby likes?

It has been suggested that we may be able to predispose babies to these flavours so they are more likely to accept bitter tastes, including vegetables, by frequently eating them during pregnancy. One study tested this hypothesis by asking one group of mothers to consume carrot juice frequently throughout the third trimester and the first three months of lactation, while another group of mothers avoided carrots and carrot juice completely. During weaning the babies of the mothers that drank carrot juice regularly during pregnancy and lactation were more accepting of carrot flavoured cereal than the babies whose mothers had avoided carrots. 

A balanced diet

Don’t worry, you won’t need to start drinking litres of various vegetable juices during your pregnancy to encourage your baby to like them later on, but eating a balance diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables is a great way for you to stay healthy with the added bonus of introducing these flavours to your baby early. Pregnancy, however, is a really hard time to go through and it’s not uncommon to only want to eat foods such as bread and pizza. If you can’t stomach many bitter flavours yourself, there are lots of factors that can influence food preferences and there are a number of other ways to encourage your baby to accept bitter vegetables when they start weaning.    With thanks to Leanne Thompson. Find her on Instagram @leannehelenanutrition      Disclaimer: The views and advice given in this article are those of the guest writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Weaning Week or any other organisations represented on this platform    

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