Picky eating: Taste Imprinting During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

AngelaRD, LDN, CBS

Read time: 2 minutes 

What to know about introducing your baby to healthy foods during pregnancy and breastfeeding

  • What you eat during pregnancy and breastfeeding can help develop your baby’s food preferences
  • Your baby is exposed to flavors in the food you eat through amniotic fluid
  • The flavor of your breastmilk changes depending on what you eat

We know that what you eat during pregnancy can impact the health of your growing baby, but what you may not realize is that what you eat while pregnant and breastfeeding can actually have an impact on your baby’s taste preferences later on in life.

Your baby tastes the foods you eat when you are pregnant

Taste imprinting is the theory that a baby’s taste preferences begin to develop early on from exposure to foods and flavors while still in the womb. When you’re pregnant, your baby gets a “taste” of the flavors you eat through the amniotic fluid.1,2,3

This remarkable impact we have on our baby’s taste preference before they’re even born is a result of familiarity. We know through research that the more we taste something (as babies, children, and even adults), the more we accept and even like it.4,5

So when you repeatedly eat certain flavors and foods during pregnancy, your baby is becoming familiar with them as well. Once your little one has that food again in infancy and childhood, there is a greater chance they will accept it much more readily than other foods.9

Read more: Meal Plan: Maximizing Healthy Taste Development while Pregnant or Breastfeeding

Read more: Healthy Snack Ideas for Pregnant Women

Your baby tastes the foods you eat when you are breastfeeding

The exposure to the foods you eat continues during breastfeeding as traces of flavor from your diet transfer to breastmilk.6 The flavor of breastmilk changes depending on what mom eats, and babies can detect these different flavors in the milk.7,8

Because there are only a few foods you need to avoid when breastfeeding, you (and your baby!) can enjoy a wide variety of flavors from your diet.

Read more: Meal Plan for Increasing Fruits and Vegetables

Read more: Which Foods Should I Avoid While Breastfeeding?

Goal: While pregnant and breastfeeding, eat a variety of flavors and healthy foods

What you eat, your baby tastes. Choose a diet rich in healthy foods while you’re pregnant and breastfeeding. Think about including plenty of vegetables and fruits daily, as well as using a variety of spices and seasonings.

This will not only help keep you healthy and support your baby’s growth and development, but it can also prepare your little one to accept these foods later in life. What you eat will become familiar to your little one as a taste they’ve ‘grown-up’ with.

Choose nutritious, flavorful foods to help make a lasting impact.

Read more: Prenatal Nutrition Guide
Read more: Meal Plan: Getting the Right Nutrition While Breastfeeding

For more information on picky eating, please visit our Picky Eating Hub.

Let’s Chat!

We know parenting often means sleepless nights, stressful days, and countless questions and confusion, and we want to support you in your feeding journey and beyond.

Our Happy Baby Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitians certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too, which means they’ve been there and seen that. They’re here to help on our free, live chat platform Monday through Friday, from 8am–6pm ET, and Saturday and Sunday, from 8am–2pm ET. Chat Now!

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For more on this topic, check out the following articles:

How Much Should You Eat When Pregnant?

Key Nutrients to Support a Healthy Pregnancy

Meal Planning for Simple, Quick, Healthy Cooking

Can I Eat Seafood While Pregnant or Breastfeeding?

What Are The Benefits of Breastmilk?