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How to Teach Your Child About Flavor Before and After Birth

Your baby’s sense of smell and taste begins to develop in the womb, as early as the first trimester. By the time your baby is delivered, his or her sense of taste and smell is fully mature and rivals that of an older child or adult. This early taste training is thanks to the amniotic fluid, which transmits the flavors of your diet to your developing baby. In essence, your baby can taste and experience the odors of your diet throughout your pregnancy.

After baby is born, he or she is either fed breast milk or infant formula. Breast milk is also loaded with the flavors of your diet. Flavors such as garlic, onion, and different spices get passed through breast milk to your baby. This is not the case with formula-fed babies. Infant formulas vary in their flavors—for example cow’s milk formula tastes different than soy-based formula. These flavors don’t vary, however, they remain steady in their flavor profile day after day.

Once your baby begins solid food, the flavors he or she likes become the flavors he or she is exposed to most frequently. Babies will naturally prefer sweet and savory flavors, as there is a genetic predisposition to these. Likewise, your baby may dislike bitter flavors, such as those found in vegetables. Researchers have identified exposure—offering your baby a variety of flavors repeatedly—as the best approach to helping your young child learn to like lots of different tastes and foods. It can take your baby or young child between 6-15 exposures before he or she begins liking the flavor of a new food.

Helping your baby like all food flavors can be tricky, but it’s not impossible. If you understand how flavor preferences develop, you can help your child along the path of developing a wide preference for a variety of flavors.


  • Ventura AK, Worobey J
  • Early influences on the development of food preferences
  • Curr Biol
  • 2013 May 6;23(9):R401-8
  • doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2013.02.037.

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