When you are breastfeeding, your body has a big impact on your child. The food you eat while pregnant and nursing can impact your child’s future food preferences. Your baby eats what you eat. Crazy I know!
If you didn’t eat great while pregnant or nursing, all is not lost! 🙂 Check out our series on picky eating if you are one of the 50% of parents who say their child is a picky eater!
Let us help you turn your baby into an adventurous foodie before he ever takes his first bite of food.
In this article we’ll cover how to help develop your child’s taste preferences by being aware of what you eat while pregnant and/or nursing.
What You Eat Is What You Feed
When nursing a baby, what you eat does have an impact on your child in ways that you may not be aware of. What you eat is what your baby eats.
That’s right! In fact, the food you eat when you are nursing can play a big part in whether your child becomes a picky eater or not. You might be thinking, I know a lot of people who breastfed and still have a picky eater.
That’s very true.
While eating the right foods in pregnancy and while breastfeeding can have a great impact on your child’s preferences, it’s all the other things that happen after introducing solids that also impact your child and may lead him to becoming a picky eater.
Let’s start your child’s culinary journey by amplify your child’s taste preferences and then you can read our articles on the best ways to introduce solid foods to your baby to reduce your child’s chances of being overly picky in toddlerhood.
A survey conducted with mothers who were breastfeeding proved that their child, later in life, preferred the foods they ate while they breastfed. Mothers were given carrot juice to drink while they were breastfeeding. Other mothers weren’t given any carrot juice. Then, when the children began to eat solids, they put carrot juice in the foods of both groups of children to see if the kids liked the flavor. The kids who were breastfed by mothers who were consuming the juice were more likely to like the carrot flavor than kids that weren’t (2).
What this study showed was that breastfeeding kids played a heavy role in creating their food preferences as early as six months.
Another study conducted with 129 mothers showed that children who were breastfed for the first 6 months of their lives were 81 percent less likely as preschoolers to say no to food. In this same survey 78 percent of kids who were breastfed were shown to be less likely to develop a preference for specific food preparations; they were also 75 percent less likely to develop a fear of new foods (1).
There are a number of surveys that prove that what you ingest is what you feed. A study conducted in the 1970’s on cattle (Don’t worry, this is relevant!) demonstrated this very concept (1). Cows that were feed garlic and onions produced milk with a distinctive flavor – does that sound appetizing?
This study showed that what foods were ingested played a huge role on the production, the consistency and the taste of milk.
Each day your breastmilk changes flavor and aroma based on what you ate. For formula babies, the formula is the same day after day. The flavor notes are always the same. If you are formula feeding, there are still things you can do to make up for this sameness in the milk. We’ll cover this in greater detail in a future article.
What You Eat, Your Child Eats
Your child is still developing his taste buds. Kids are real susceptible to foods. When you eat more vegetables, this will have a huge impact on what milk you produce (2). In fact, if you eat a lot of greens, you’ll even be able to notice your milk has a green tint to it. This is natural. This is good. You want your kids to be introduced to these foods.
What you want to do is eat a large variety of foods, veggies and fruits. Create their preferences: eat a lot of veggies.
As you can see, what you eat does play a role in how your child’s development and how he eats. It’s important to be sure that you are aware of what you are eating. No need to go to too much of an extreme, but be sure that what you are having is something you feel safe with. Remember, a little coffee and a small drink is okay as long as it doesn’t interfere with your baby 😉
Colic & Reflux
Some babies have reflux and silent reflux. For some moms and babies, the reflux can be further aggravated by what types of foods the moms eats. Some of the top offending foods are foods high in acids such as tomatoes and all types of red sauces, lemons, coffee and juice. Other foods that can cause reflux issues are dairy products, soy, eggs, wheat, corn based foods, chocolate, citrus, carbonated drinks and alcohol (3). These foods can cause reflux-like symptoms in your child. They can also be colic producing.
Colic is categorized as intense pain in your child’s stomach caused by gas (4). So when eating, be careful about your diet and the foods you consume to make sure your child doesn’t become colic. Each baby is different!
I had twins and one had the worst reflux; and the other had colic. I cut out so many foods in my diet to see if it would help that I started to feel like I wasn’t eating anything nutritious. Eventually, both of them outgrew it and I started eating all kinds of veggies, beans and dairy.
When nursing, keep a journal to document the foods you eat and mark when or if your child has an adverse reaction soon after, generally within the next hour or two. This will help you figure out which foods to eliminate from your diet. After a few weeks, you can try introducing the food back into your diet to see if your baby has the same reaction.
If your child is having an allergic reaction, blood in stool or projectile vomiting, do not reintroduce the food without speaking with your Pediatrician.
Avoid Empty Calories
Be sure to avoid empty calories, as much as you can. You need the nutrients! You want to be certain the foods you are eating are supplying you with enough energy to produce enough milk so you can feed your baby. Empty calories will supply you with fats and sugars, but not the vitamins and nutrients you can get from eating more superfoods (5).
Remember you are stacking the deck with teaching taste at such a young age. You may still end up with a picky eater when it’s all said and done, but you did your best! The goal is to set your child up to have a larger palate, but now you need to take these flavors and build on them.
Check out our other resources on breastfeeding:
- Top Picks: Breastfeeding Supplements to Help Make More Milk
- Tips to Enjoy Breastfeeding (When it’s not always so enjoyable)
- How to Wean from Breastfeeding to Milk
Additional Resources & Information
Illinois New Bureau: Breastfed babies less likely to be picky eaters as toddlers
Live Strong: Foods to Avoid While Breastfeeding to Prevent Reflux
Ask Dr. Sear: Colic-Causing Foods in Breastfeeding
About Health: Breastfeeding