Can a baby taste food through breast milk?

Baby’s diet is pretty static before he makes his solids debut, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t getting a head start on figuring out his favorite flavors. In fact, he could already be getting a taste for your or your partner’s cooking!

For as long as women have been breastfeeding, they’ve been noticing that there are times when their babies are more or less enthusiastic for breastfeeding, and that sometimes, these changes in opinion seem to have something to do with what they’ve been eating. It took a little longer for science to catch up and confirm that, yes, some flavors from the foods mothers eat show up in their breast milk – and that, sometimes, babies really like those flavors. A 1991 study had nursing mothers take capsules of concentrated garlic, and then, when the garlic showed up in their breast milk, recorded that the babies drinking the garlicky milk stayed at their mothers’ breasts significantly longer than babies in a control group whose mothers were not given garlic.

Not all flavors show up in breast milk, though, and the flavors that do show up at different points, at different intensities, and stay for different lengths of time. The intensities of the flavors that do show up vary from person to person, as well, so it’s hard to draw any kind of hard-and-fast rule. A 2008 study out of the University of Copenhagen, in Denmark, studied the timing and levels of different flavors in breast milk, and while anise and liquorice flavors showed up in breast milk fairly fast, peaking around two hours after they consumed the flavor capsules, a mint flavor didn’t peak until between four and six hours after consumption, and a banana flavor never showed up in their breast milk at all.

Because there have been relatively few studies showing which flavors are passed on to Baby through breast milk, there’s no very clear answer to how much of what you eat Baby is getting a taste of exactly. However, it’s safe to say that he is getting some of it, so if he starts to make funny faces as he eats, just remember that he is getting started on developing his palate for his future career as a restaurant critic.

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