Developing Baby R's palate: Research Update #2

Over the course of weeks, I have reviewed several articles about baby palate is developed and how mother's diet can affect baby's future food preferences. (Truth to be told, it hasn't been easy due time constraints ;), as most of the attention and time goes to Baby R and his current needs).

What I have found so far (or confirmed) is that we (mother's) are starting educating our child's palate already during prenatal period (when baby is still in womb) and will continue through breastfeeding period. (So, maybe we should limit our candy and chips intake for little's healthy future :P, just saying).


Anyway, the main take away is, that from prenatal and postnatal period babies start to learn about different food flavors. So their flavor education starts way before they are actually introduced to solid foods. Which means that from the time you are pregnant with your baby, he/she will experience the same flavors as you too. Also, these early periods are very important for the later weaning period and for the enjoyment kiddo is getting of the foods you offer them. Therefore if you want that your baby will enjoy his/hers broccoli, etc., you should consider eating it during the pregnancy/breastfeeding period and continue to expose them frequently to these fruit and vegetables. According to FDA Infant feeding Practices Study and its follow up program (Y6FU), children that ate fruit and vegetables infrequently at their first year will continue to do so at age of 6. So be consistent! 

So eat and diversify your diet in order to have easier introductory phase during weaning. Though there is no guarantees, even though research shows that infants will prefer flavors they were exposed during gestation and lactation period. Therefore it is also argued that the bottle baby potentially will miss out of this rich and varied sensory experience, that breastfeed baby is getting, as formula flavors are monotonous and will lack of sensory information about dietary choices (Manella et al 2004). 

(Our Baby R managed during gestation period to log in two Michelin Star experiences together with bug event and now during the lactation period I have been eating lot of dark chocolate. Though, I am secretly hoping that he would like dark good quality chocolate as much as we do and he will enjoy different restaurant experiences, I am not sure if this bug event will make him more open minded about this potential future source of protein and if he will expect his solids to live up for Michelin experience. So we are curious about the future. Lets wait and see :) ).

"The food habits of a people often mirror their cultural beliefs and values..." (Mennella (1997)). This idea that baby's palate will be affected during gestation and lactation period is not a new find, as already in 19 century it was believed that wet-nurse's diet will not only offer the needed nourishment, but also will affect baby's intelligence and personality. According to Elisabeth Rozin, who coined a term "Flavour principle", these principles not only identify a culture's cuisine for those outside the group, but also provide a sense of familiarity for those who share the tradition (Mannella (1997)). Also it has been found throughout several studies that culture (where the mother is from), will affect infants food enjoyment during weaning period. And surprisingly (at least for me) not all cultures see colostrum (the first milk) as beneficial for baby, so they are offering sugar/honey water to baby in his/hers first days (See Table in Mennella (1997)). Also sweet tastes have a calming effects on infants and young kids. Though the red thread throughout articles covering palate development or culture seem to be the importance of mother having a varied diet

(Based on that information, it would be interesting to see, how baby's palate is affected if the baby bearing is outsourced to for example India (surrogates) and how these western babies food enjoyments and palates are affected. I assume that there must me some affect, I assume. Are they more happy to try different spices and curries or the surrogates eat during this time western diet. (Though somehow, I don't believe the latter.))

Anyway if you are curious and have spare time, here is the list of articles covering culture and mother's diet more in depth. Though, surprisingly not much research have been done on the subject and the main research has been done by J. A. Mennella.  

Articles reviewed for this post: 

  • J. A. Mennella (1997) A Cross-Cultural Perspective. Nutrition Today Vol. 32 (4)
  • J. A. Mennella & G.K. Beauchamp (2001) Maternal Diet Alters the Sensory Qualities of Human Milk and the Nursling's Behaviour. Pediatrics Vol.88 (4)
  • J. A. Mennella et al. (2004) Flavor Programming During Infancy. Pediarics Vol. 113 (4)
  • D. McNamee (02.09.2014) Infant feeding habits may predict eating behaviors in later life.
  • J. A. Mennella et al. (2001) Prenatal and Postnatal Flavour Learning by Human Infants. Pediarics Vol. 107 (6)