A child's breastfeeding period is a crucial developmental stage. A mother's habits during pregnancy can affect a child's future health. But can breastfeeding shape your child's future food preferences?
Image Source: Shutterstock, Nitikan T
Pregnancy and breastfeeding are two stages where your baby is essentially living off the nutrients you consume. This is why many mothers make sure they make health-conscious decisions during these crucial stages in a baby’s development.
Recently, more studies are linking certain aspects of maternal health and a mother’s lifestyle to a child's overall health and their susceptibility to developing certain conditions in the future. One of these aspects is whether a mother’s diet affects her child’s future food preferences and consequently their nutrition.
Did you know that your baby can taste some of the flavours you take in during breastfeeding? One example of such flavours is garlic which can be tasted by your baby in breast milk. Surprisingly, this can affect your child’s food preferences.
How breastfeeding shapes a child’s dietary patterns
The importance of these food preferences becomes evident as your child begins to wean off your breast milk and solid foods are slowly introduced into their diets. By nature, infants are inclined to lean towards sugary foods and to dislike sour and bitter foods.
This is why convincing a child to eat their vegetables can sometimes seem hard unless they're used to eating vegetables. Children naturally gravitate towards foods they’re familiar with.
If a mother eats certain foods while breastfeeding, her child will be more likely to eat and accept that food since they’ve already been exposed to the taste in breast milk. Exposure to a wide variety of flavours (foods eaten by the mother) can be beneficial when introducing solid foods as your child will be more open to a diverse range of foods.
On the other hand, formula milk doesn’t offer this exposure to a wide variety of flavours. This is why breastfed children are less likely to be picky eaters compared to formula-fed children during their later childhood.
Exposure encourages adventure
Exposure to a wide variety of flavours means more familiarity when your child finally tries them as solid foods. One study showed that children who were breastfed for longer periods of time had an intake of a greater variety of healthy foods and vegetables in their later childhood.
This supports the theory that exposure to a variety of flavours during breastfeeding positively affects food preferences. One possible link with obesity is that formula-fed children are less inclined to eat healthy foods than breastfed children since they weren’t exposed to different flavours early on.
If you’re hoping for your child to have adventurous and healthy taste buds in the future, consider exposing them to healthy foods as babies through your breastmilk!