Baby’s Nutritional Intelligence Begins in Utero
Written by Plum Organics®
Finding out that you are pregnant is one of the most amazing, joyous and overwhelming moments of your life. You know from this point on you are not only responsible for your own health but for the health of another human being. These days, it is common knowledge that healthy nutrition during pregnancy is very important for the development of a baby. But what you may not realize is that what you eat during pregnancy can also influence your baby’s taste preferences. Just eight weeks after conception, your baby is actually beginning to develop taste buds. By the third trimester, your baby will have more taste buds than at any other point in their adult lives! In other words, what you eat during your pregnancy can play a key role in developing your little one’s natural love for the tastes and flavors of healthy foods.
This may be surprising news to you and you may ask yourself, how is that even possible? The answer is pretty simple. Babies get nutrition through the umbilical cord but they also swallow and digest their moms’ amniotic fluid. In fact, 20% of the protein a baby consumes comes from what they drink. Studies have shown that the amniotic fluid in a mother’s womb has distinctive flavors based on what she eats and drinks.
During examinations of the amniotic fluids, researchers have determined that there isn’t a single flavor that doesn’t show up in utero. By exposing your baby to a multitude of flavors during pregnancy, your little one will remember the flavors and even seek them out after birth. This explains why adopted infants who have left their native culture, innately prefer their native cuisine years later even though they may never have eaten those foods in the conventional sense.
Dr. Alan Greene, author of Feeding Baby Green and Plum Organics’ pediatric advisor, describes this stage as the beginning of a baby’s “Nutritional Intelligence”, an intelligence that will help them choose healthy foods later in life. Simply stated, Nutritional Intelligence is about developing babies’ palates from the earliest stage, helping them to “recognize and love healthy amounts of healthy foods.”
So how can you foster your baby’s Nutritional Intelligence?
Pregnancy is a great opportunity for you to cook meals with whole ingredients, herbs & spices, and the healthy flavors you want your child to love. Simply put, eat plenty of the nutritious foods that you enjoy every day! If you are a fan of herbs & spices like lemongrass or rosemary, have a love for creamy avocado or pungent cheese, then enjoy them during pregnancy and your little one will most likely show preferences towards those familiar flavors down the road.
The imprinting process continues after birth and throughout baby’s first year. This window of time is critical to evolve baby’s palate and propensity towards flavorful foods. Early on, your baby will show a preference towards sweet flavors with a “sweet tooth” best satiated by the naturally sweet taste of breast milk. New research even suggests that baby’s exposure to breast milk and amniotic fluid can positively impact your baby’s reaction to common allergies. Therefore, Dr. Greene suggests that it’s actually okay for most women to consume nuts, cooked eggs and other potential allergens while pregnant and nursing because it may actually help their baby. As always, it’s best to consult your doctor or baby’s pediatrician to understand what works best for you.
Another amazing finding is that a baby’s food recognition can extend to the mother’s partner. After baby is born, studies have shown that she may prefer the smell of a parent that eats the foods she has already been introduced to while in the womb. It is clear that food is an essential component of life, but it is also a cultural and bonding experience for baby and the whole family…so enjoy it every day!