A baby’s taste develops at 8 weeks of gestation. They can detect different flavors of food their mothers eat. Nerves in the taste buds begin connecting to their brains at this point. But did you know what flavors are dominant?
Unborn babies in the womb can taste flavors like garlic, carrots, and vanilla in their amniotic fluid, which can influence what they eat. Reactions to salty food come later on at 6 months.
Studies on the Amniotic Fluid
Researchers gave women garlic or sugar capsules before taking a routine sample of their amniotic fluid. Then they asked a panel of people to smell the pieces, to see if flavors are passed from the mother to the baby via the amniotic fluid.
And it was easy. They could pick out the samples easily from the women who ate garlic.” The sense of taste is actually 90 percent smell, she added, so they knew just from the odor that the babies could taste it.Julie Mennella, Researcher, Taste in Infants at the Monell Chemical Senses Center
Mennella says she got the idea from dairy farmers researching how the dairy cow’s diet affected the milk’s flavor in the 1960s and 1970s. Cows that graze on wild garlic and onion or live in stinky barns, she claims, produce milk with distinct flavors.
On the other hand, Mennella claims that not only is human amniotic fluid and breast milk flavored by food, as it is in cows, but memories of these flavors are formed even before birth. This could result in lifetime preferences for these foods or odors. In other words, if you eat broccoli while pregnant, your baby is much more likely to enjoy it.
Mennella claims that this had previously been observed in rabbits, so she decided to put it to the test in human babies with carrots. Three groups of pregnant women were formed. One group was instructed to drink carrot juice daily while pregnant, another while breastfeeding, and a third to avoid carrots entirely. When the children started eating solid food, the researchers fed them cereal with water or carrot juice and videotaped their reactions. (Source: NPR)
Introducing Baby Food
This makes a lot of evolutionary sense, says Mennella. Since mothers tend to feed their children what they eat, it is nature’s way of introducing babies to the foods and flavors they are likely to encounter in their family and culture.
And just like the European rabbit, the babies who had experienced carrot in amniotic fluid or mother’s milk ate more of the carrot-flavored cereal. When we analyzed the videotapes they made less negative faces while eating it. Each individual baby is having their own unique experience, it’s changing from hour to hour, from day to day, from month to month, As a stimulus it’s providing so much information to that baby about who they are as a family and what are the foods their family enjoys and appreciates.Julie Mennella, Researcher, Taste in Infants at the Monell Chemical Senses Center
Image from MedicalNewsToday