What foods and flavors will your baby like and dislike? Genetics are key, but other factors also play a role. Babies’ taste buds begin to develop in the first trimester, and in a way, they can taste in the womb because the molecules of the food you eat pass through your bloodstream into the amniotic fluid. The foods you eat during pregnancy can even affect your child’s sense of taste and food choices as they grow up.
Your baby’s taste buds: timeline
Your baby’s tongue begins to form around 4-5 weeks of pregnancy. Rudimentary taste buds emerge at 8 weeks gestation and many more develop between 11 and 13 weeks, but they have yet to convey real taste sensations. This doesn’t happen until weeks 14-15, when nerve cells begin to connect between the developing buds and the nerves that send taste messages to your baby’s brain.
By around 30 weeks, most of your baby’s taste buds – and their neural connections – are fully formed and functional.
Can babies taste in the womb?
In a way, babies can taste in the womb. The molecules of the food you eat enter the amniotic fluid through your bloodstream. Flavors are transferred from your diet to the amniotic fluid in the womb and after birth, making breastfed babies more accepting of a variety of flavors.
The sense of smell and taste are closely linked. Taste buds allow us to tell if something is sweet or bitter, salty or sour, but smell helps us recognize the distinctive taste of food. Special cells needed for your baby’s sense of smell begin to develop between the 9th and 11th weeks of pregnancy.
If you’re craving hot curry and rubbing hot sauce on everything, don’t worry. Although your baby can sense some tastes and smells, there is no evidence that spicy foods can harm your baby. (It might bother you, though: Hot and spicy foods can aggravate morning sickness and heartburn, a common complaint during pregnancy.)
At birth, your baby’s new taste buds are very sensitive and can taste sweet, sour, and bitter. Babies generally prefer sweets, which is one of the reasons they love the taste of your breast milk. Your baby may not be able to taste salty tastes until they are 2 to 6 months old.
Can you influence your baby’s sense of taste?
Could what you eat while pregnant affect the flavors your baby will enjoy later in life? Some studies say yes. In a small study of pregnant women, those who drank carrot juice in the last few weeks of pregnancy and while breastfeeding had babies by 6 months of age who preferred carrot-flavored cereal to regular cereal.
Experiments were also conducted with garlic, anise (a liquorice-flavored spice), mint and vanilla. Babies exposed to these flavors tended to prefer these flavors in both breast milk and solid foods.
How do you support the development of your baby’s taste buds?
The foods you eat during pregnancy can affect your baby’s sense of taste and which flavors your child will prefer later in life. But don’t stress yourself out too much (morning sickness and food aversion can disrupt your typical eating habits). Do your best to eat as varied and healthy a diet as possible during pregnancy. This way you will get many vitamins and minerals that are essential for your baby’s health. The six most important nutrients for your baby’s development during pregnancy are:
- folic acid
- Vitamin D
Take your prenatal vitamin every day and talk to your doctor about getting enough of these essential nutrients for your baby’s growth. And finally, don’t forget about basic food safety rules for pregnancy. For example, make sure to limit your caffeine consumption.
Development of baby’s taste buds week by week
|4-5 weeks||The tongue and palate (palate) begin to form.|
|8 weeks||Primitive taste buds appear.|
|14-15 weeks||Nerves from the taste buds begin to connect to the brain.|
|30 weeks||Many taste buds can transmit taste signals to the brain.|
|birth||Your baby can taste sweet, sour and bitter tastes. Reactions to salty foods appear later, usually after 6 months.|