Is it possible for a baby to be born with a natural inclination to eat vegetables? While many factors play into a child’s food preferences, the answer may lie, in part, in if he or she was exposed to certain flavors while in the womb.
Research shows that there is not a single flavor that hasn’t been tasted in utero. By regularly being exposed to flavors like exotic spices, carrots or broccoli a baby may become more accustomed to the flavor when exposed to it after birth. These in utero flavor experiences have the potential to ease the process of introducing certain foods when your child begins spoon-feeding. It seems as though it is equally important to consume nutritious foods during pregnancy for both the baby’s physiological development and growth, as well as for flavor development and exposure.
When Do Babies Begin To Taste Flavors?
Memories of flavors are developed even before birth. In the womb the baby receives vital nutrients from several ounces of amniotic fluid a day. This nourishment is flavored by the foods the mother has eaten in the last few hours. Once a baby’s taste buds form and the saliva reflex is initiated (in about the 12th week of gestation) different flavors become recognizable. Ate shrimp scampi for dinner? A couple hours later, the amniotic fluid becomes infused with the garlic flavor.
Developing Healthy Taste Buds
One study concluded that infants of mothers who drank carrot juice daily while pregnant or while nursing were more accepting of carrot-flavored cereal than infants of mothers who had only drank water.
Now in the third trimester of her second pregnancy, I asked my sister to recall if she ever saw a connection between what she ate when she was pregnant and her first child’s early taste palate.
“I remember eating Asian stir-fry with carrots, snow peas, red pepper and broccoli for dinner quite often, and although Liam can be slightly picky when it comes to certain vegetables, he has never refused broccoli.”
Could the early exposure to this flavor be the explanation for his liking of a vegetable not usually popular with young eaters?
One thing is for sure an early jump-start to raising a healthy eater will have any mother-to-be munching on their veggies!
Start Early, Start Often
While our preferences for certain flavors continue to develop well into adulthood, (I would never touch spinach growing up, and now I make smoothies with it all the time!) it seems as though using a baby’s prior exposure to flavors in utero may just be one trick to help them want to eat their vegetables. Mothers who practice healthy eating habits can make the initial experience of trying new foods for their child a little less traumatic and help them build a diverse palate.