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The Influence of Human Milk on Flavor and Food Preferences

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Abstract

Purpose of Review The purpose of this review is to provide an overview of the literature that examines sensory experiences during early feeding practices and the influence human milk has on flavor and food preferences. Recent Findings Research suggests that the development of flavor and food preferences begins during the prenatal period through exposure to amniotic fluid and continues in the postnatal period during breastfeeding. Breastfeeding provides an infant with a unique variety of constantly changing chemosensory experiences as human milk contains flavors from foods that are part of the mother’s diet. These early flavor exposures are believed to help with the transition to complementary foods during later infancy and early childhood. Compared to formula-fed infants who are exposed to limited sensory experiences due to its constant flavor, breastfed infants demonstrate greater acceptance of novel foods when they are part of the maternal diet. Studies show that toddlers, preschool, and school-aged children who were breastfed as infants demonstrate more positive acceptance of a wider variety of healthy foods and are more accepting of new foods and are less likely to be picky eaters. Summary Infant exposure early in life to a wide variety of flavors from healthy and nutrient-rich foods through amniotic fluid and human milk contributes to an individual’s unique set of taste preferences that can lead to healthier food choices and optimal health.
FOOD ACCEPTANCE AND NUTRITION IN INFANTS AND YOUNG CHILDREN (H COULTHARD, SECTION EDITOR)
The Influence of Human Milk on Flavor and Food Preferences
Rebecca L. Dunn
1
&Rachelle Lessen
2
Published online: 5 May 2017
#Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017
Abstract
Purpose of Review The purpose of this review is to provide an
overview of the literature that examines sensory experiences
during early feeding practices and the influence human milk
has on flavor and food preferences.
Recent Findings Research suggests that the development of
flavor and food preferences begins during the prenatal period
through exposure to amniotic fluid and continues in the post-
natal period during breastfeeding. Breastfeeding provides an
infant with a unique variety of constantly changing
chemosensory experiences as human milk contains flavors
from foods that are part of the mothers diet. These early flavor
exposures are believed to help with the transition to comple-
mentary foods during later infancy and early childhood.
Compared to formula-fed infants who are exposed to limited
sensory experiences due to its constant flavor, breastfed in-
fants demonstrate greater acceptance of novel foods when
they are part of the maternal diet. Studies show that toddlers,
preschool, and school-aged children who were breastfed as
infants demonstrate more positive acceptance of a wider vari-
ety of healthy foods and are more accepting of new foods and
are less likely to be picky eaters.
Summary Infant exposure early in life to a wide variety of
flavors from healthy and nutrient-rich foods through amniotic
fluid and human milk contributes to an individualsuniqueset
of taste preferences that can lead to healthier food choices and
optimal health.
Keywords Human milk .Breastfeeding .Infant feeding .
Flavor development .Sensory experiences .Food acceptance
Introduction
Human milk is the optimal form of nutrition for infants as it
provides species-specific nutrients and bioactive factors that
deliver physiological, cognitive, emotional, as well as other
benefits for both mothers and babies [13]. The well-
documented benefits of human milk and breastfeeding have
made the provision of human milk and breastfeeding a global
public health priority for improving maternal and child health
outcomes [3]. Numerous health-related organizations endorse
exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of an infantslife
and continued breastfeeding for 1 year or longer with age-
appropriate complementary feeding [14]. This feeding rec-
ommendation is supported by the desirable health outcomes
that are seen in infants who have exclusively breastfed for
6 months or longer compared to those with a shorter duration
or who never breastfed [1]. The desirable health outcomes that
are derived from human milk are attributed to the myriad of
biologically active nutritive and non-nutritive components.
Human milk is a biologically active fluid that is highly
variable and complex evidenced to be tailored by each mother
to meet the needs of her infant [57]. As a dynamic bioactive
fluid, the composition of human milk changes during stage of
lactation (i.e., colostrum versus transitional milk versus ma-
ture milk), a feeding (i.e., foremilk versus hindmilk),
This article is part of the Topical Collection on Food Acceptance and
Nutrition in Infants and Young Children
*Rebecca L. Dunn
rdunn@keene.edu
Rachelle Lessen
lessen@email.chop.edu
1
Department of Health Science, Keene State College, 229 Main
Street, Keene, NH 03435-2903, USA
2
Department of Nursing, The Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia,
Philadelphia, PA 19104-4399, USA
Curr Nutr Rep (2017) 6:134140
DOI 10.1007/s13668-017-0200-3
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
... There are several potential reasons why the dietary variety might be increased with a baby-led approach to feeding. Breastfeeding exposes infants to a wider variety of tastes than occurs with formula feeding [18,36], and BLISS infants were exclusively breastfed for several weeks longer than Control infants [23]. In addition, others [37] have shown that the early introduction of complementary foods may be detrimental to food variety; young children who had been introduced to complementary foods before 6 months of age were 2.5 times more likely (95% CI: 1.1-5.7) to consume a limited variety of foods than those who had been introduced to solids after 6 months. ...
... Infants who had been randomized to the BLISS intervention group were significantly and substantially more likely to follow a baby-led approach to infant feeding than infants in the Control group [23], so we can be confident that the null findings are not due to poor adherence to the intervention. We also determined whether group differences in breastfeeding or the age of solids introduction might have influenced our findings, given their known effect on variety and development of food preferences in young children [36]. However, adjustment for these variables had little effect on the group differences observed. ...
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... Early familiarization with foods Prenatal exposure to flavors via amniotic fluid impacts later preferences for those flavors, and the role of the mother's milk in transferring and modifying flavor preferences has been demonstrated [14]. However, body fluids during pregnancy and breastfeeding mediate only a limited spectrum of sensory experiences that a baby will encounter when introduced to food. ...
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