Consequently, the types of food eaten by women during pregnancy and, hence, the flavor principles of their culture may be experienced by the infants before their first exposure to solid foods. Some of these same flavors will later be experienced by infants in breast milk, a liquid that, like amniotic fluid, comprises flavors that directly reflect the foods, spices, and beverages eaten by the mother. Pregnant women who planned on breast-feeding their infants were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 groups. The women consumed either mL of carrot juice or water for 4 days per week for 3 consecutive weeks during the last trimester of pregnancy and then again during the first 2 months of lactation. The mothers in 1 group drank carrot juice during pregnancy and water during lactation; mothers in a second group drank water during pregnancy and carrot juice during lactation, whereas those in the control group drank water during both pregnancy and lactation. The results demonstrated that the infants who had exposure to the flavor of carrots in either amniotic fluid or breast milk behaved differently in response to that flavor in a food base than did nonexposed control infants. Specifically, previously exposed infants exhibited fewer negative facial expressions while feeding the carrot-flavored cereal compared with the plain cereal, whereas control infants whose mothers drank water during pregnancy and lactation exhibited no such difference. Moreover, those infants who were exposed to carrots prenatally were perceived by their mothers as enjoying the carrot-flavored cereal more compared with the plain cereal. Although these same tendencies were observed for the amount of cereal consumed and the length of the feeds, these findings were not statistically significant. These very early flavor experiences may provide the foundation for cultural and ethnic differences in cuisine. Pediatrics ; 6.
A fetus begins swallowing amniotic fluid at around 12 weeks, and by 28 weeks, an unborn baby is developing a powerful sense of smell de Vries et al The phenomenon has been documented in rodents and rabbits Bilko et al ; Hepper For instance, babies recognize the smell of their own amniotic fluids immediately after birth. Given the choice, newborns have shown a preference for breasts that have been dabbed with fluids from their amniotic sac Varendi et al But babies lose their preference for the scent of amniotic fluid within a few days after birth. What about long-term effects? Can prenatal learning influence baby behavior weeks–even months–after birth? The evidence suggests that it can. And that might mean that a mother’s diet during pregnancy can shape the food preferences of her children — for good or for ill. In one experiment, Julie Mennella and her colleagues asked 46 pregnant women to follow one of three regimens.
Adaptive fetal learning: prenatal exposure to garlic affects postnatal preferences. The researchers identified ten women who were about to undergo a routine amniocentesis. If you suspect you have a medical problem, please see a physician. Int J Prenatal Perinatal Psychol. Research on rats suggests that a pregnancy diet of high-fat, high-sugar foods including potato chips and jelly doughnuts might affect the food preferences of babies Bayol et al Penchants for salt and umami tastes are also innate. The infants sat in a chair that had a tray attached to its arms and their mothers fed them with utensils and the infants wore bibs that were identical to those used at home. Corresponding author. Anim Behav. The babies who tasted high concentrations of carrot in utero and in their mother’s milk went on to happily eat more carrot during weaning.