Does taste develop in the womb?

Many factors influence the food preferences that children develop in their early lives. One of those factors is likely what their mothers ate while they were pregnant with them.

A baby’s taste develops early

Unborn babies (fetuses) can detect the flavor of foods their mothers eat. A baby’s sense of taste begins to form at 8 weeks’ gestation, when the first taste buds appear, according to the European Food Information Council (EUFIC). The fetus swallows from ¾ cup to 3 cups of amniotic fluid every day, and flavors from the mother’s diet make it into that amniotic fluid. The fluid has many taste compounds—sugars like glucose and fructose, fatty acids, amino acids, proteins, and salts.

That’s why babies already experience the mother’s taste patterns long before they begin eating food themselves. By the time a baby is born, taste is their most developed sense.

Why what you eat matters

What a pregnant mother eats not only sensitizes the fetus to the smells and flavors associated with certain foods but physically changes the brain, according to one researcher, and that  could directly impact what the infant eats and drinks in the future. That’s one reason it’s important for mothers to eat a healthy diet and refrain from drinking alcohol during pregnancy and nursing. If the mother drinks alcohol, her child may be more attracted to alcohol because the fetus “expects” that whatever comes from the mother must be safe. If she eats healthy food, the child may prefer healthy food, the researcher added.

For example, another study found that women who drank carrot juice while pregnant or lactating cultivated a taste for carrots in their children. And a third study using lab rats found that mothers who ate a lot of junk foods rich in calories, fat, sugar, and salt while they were pregnant had offspring who later preferred junk food themselves.

There are many reasons to stick to a healthy diet and avoid alcohol and drugs during pregnancy. The possibility of boosting your child’s attraction to healthy foods is one more. For additional information on eating a healthy diet during pregnancy, see this

Last updated May 9, 2019

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