Breast milk introduces the taste of vegetables to babies

Every baby’s sensory experience of their first food begins in utero. It is determined by what their mum is eating. The tastes of food are passed along by a mother to her baby, through her amniotic fluid and later, her breast milk.

In other words, a mother’s preferences will dictate her baby’s in the long term. This led the American researchers to wonder whether babies would accept vegetables more readily during weaning if their mothers ate more vegetables while breastfeeding.

Eat vegetables just before breastfeeding…

For one month, 97 breastfeeding mothers were assigned to one of five groups. Three groups drank half a cup of carrot, celery or beetroot juice just before nursing. The first group began when babies were just two weeks old, the second at 1.5 months of age and the third at 2.5 months. A fourth group continued to drink juice for three months, starting when their babies were just two weeks old. The last group, the control group, was asked to drink water instead of juice.

As solid foods were added to the baby’s diet, around 8 months of age on average, the babies were videotaped while eating and the scientists watched for any signs of distaste (grimacing, spitting out food,…): they received carrot and baby cereal purée or broccoli and baby cereal purée.

…it works for carrots!

Babies who were exposed to the tastes of vegetables through breast milk preferred the carrot purée to the broccoli purée. The experiment does not, however, mean that babies failed to accept the latter vegetable, with its very pronounced flavour, more readily. In fact, only 8% of the babies tested rejected all the purées.

Timing, however, is everything! The babies of mothers who started drinking juice two weeks after birth ate more carrot purée than the others and gobbled it up faster! The expressions of disgust and the grimacing on the whole occurred less frequently in children whose mothers drank juice compared with those whose mums drank water only.

The study also inspired the mothers to change their eating habits, eating more vegetables every day, and enjoying them more! And as children tend to mimic their parents’ eating habits, this may be instrumental in changing the entire family’s eating habits.

Want to learn more? Find more tips for teaching children to love vegetables in our special report!