Taste imprinting while pregnant and breastfeeding
What to Know
- What you eat during pregnancy and breastfeeding can help develop your baby’s food preferences
- Strategies for supporting your baby’s taste for healthy foods
Taste imprinting is the theory that a baby’s taste preferences begin to develop early on – even from exposure to foods and flavors while still in the womb. When you’re pregnant, your baby gets a “taste” of the flavors you eat through the amniotic fluid and this exposure to the foods you eat continues during breastfeeding as traces of flavor from your diet transfer to breastmilk.
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What you eat, your baby eats. So eating a diet rich in healthy foods (think lots of vegetables and fruits) when you’re pregnant and breastfeeding will not only help keep you healthy while supporting your baby’s growth and development, but it can also help prime your baby to accept these foods down the line. The more varied your diet, the more flavor exposure for your baby. In the short-term, this may lead to your baby developing a preference for healthy food.
What to Do
Eat a well-rounded, varied diet rich in fresh, whole and unprocessed foods.
Eat well while pregnant and breastfeeding (and beyond, for your own good health). Choose vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, fish, lean meats, low fat dairy or dairy alternatives, nuts and seeds.
Eat a variety of flavors while pregnant and breastfeeding
Think about choosing a variety of foods as well as a variety of herbs, spices and cuisines. When choosing vegetables and fruits, aim for as many different types and variations as you can (the more color variety the better), to ensure your baby’s exposure to a wide range of nutrients and flavors.
Limit less healthy foods, such as processed foods high in salt, added sugar, unsaturated and trans fats.
Babies already possess a natural preference for sweet tastes, so they need exposure to other flavors, like bitter and sour, to help develop additional preferences for these foods. It can take many exposures for your baby to develop a preference for vegetables – all the more reason to eat them during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Breastfeed exclusively for 6 months and continue breastfeeding alongside solid foods through the first year and beyond
The flavor profile of breastmilk changes daily based on the foods you eat, giving your baby lots of opportunities to experience different tastes before he is ready to try solid foods.
Mennella, JA. “Ontogeny of taste preferences: basic biology and implications for health.” Am J Clin Nutr. Volume 99. Issue 3 (2014): pages 704S-11S.
Schwartz, C, PA Scholtens, A Lalanne, H Weenen, and S Nicklaus. “Development of healthy eating habits early in life. Review of recent evidence and selected guidelines.” Volume 57. Issue 3 (2011): pages 796-807.
Birch, LL and AE Doub. “Learning to eat: birth to age 2 y.” Am J Clin Nutr. Volume 99. Issue 3 (2014): pages 723S-8S.