How you’re fed as a baby can influence your future flavour preferences and food acceptance.
Previous research has found the longer a baby is breastfed is associated with a higher fruit and vegetable intake as a child.
It’s also been found that when solids are introduced to babies, those who are breastfed and more frequently introduced to a variety of vegetables tend to show the best acceptance of new foods.
Breastfed Babies More Likely To Eat Vegetables
A recent study examined the longer term effects of breastfeeding on increased acceptance of vegetables. The study found that at 6 years, children who had been breastfed consumed more new vegetables and were more willing to taste offered vegetables.
But how can this be? How can being breastfed influence later food choices?
Breastmilk Exposes Babies To A Variety Of Flavours
When in utero, babies experience different flavours in the amniotic fluid. After birth, breastmilk continues to provide babies with a variety of flavours which can influence their food choices and dietary habits later in life.
Breastmilk doesn’t only contain nutrients such as carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals. It also contains flavours that come from the foods, spices and drinks consumed by the mother.
Hence, breastfed babies experience a large variety of flavours depending on what their mother consumes. For example, flavours such as garlic and vanilla are noticably detected by breastfed babies and influence their subsequent liking and acceptance of these flavors in foods.
So, how can mothers help their babies to learn to prefer flavours associated with fruits and vegetables?
Eat A Varied Diet When Pregnant And Breastfeeding
Since breastfed babies appear to learn to prefer flavours by experiencing them in their mothers’ amniotic fluid and breastmilk, increasing vegetable and fruit consumption when pregnant and breastfeeding could assist in their children’s fruit and vegetable consumption after birth.
Early flavour experiences from amniotic fluid and breastmilk can affect later flavour and food preferences. Such experiences interact with genetic and other factors in establishing eating habits, influencing lifetime health and wellbeing.