In addition, from the 16th week of your pregnancy onwards, your baby’s sense of smell will be working and they will start to inhale amniotic fluid1,2. By the end of your pregnancy, they’ll regularly swallow large amounts of amniotic fluid and studies have shown that the ability to savour its flavour could have an impact on your baby’s food preferences2.
Amniotic fluid and its unique properties
Even before birth, babies show a preference for sweet tastes – but why? The answer may lie in the complex mix of nutrients, amino acids and glucose that make up amniotic fluid. Naturally slightly sweet in flavour, studies have shown that if even sweeter flavours are injected into the fluid, a baby will start to swallow more. But they will stop swallowing if bitter flavours are introduced2. This early preference continues when your newborn is fed breast milk, which also has a sweet taste.
“Even before birth, babies show a preference for sweet tastes.”
You may have heard of ‘taste imprinting’, but let’s explore how it works and what it means beyond birth. This development of food preferences doesn’t just start in the womb, it also carries on throughout breastfeeding, as breast milk also contains flavours from the foods you eat. Taste imprinting is thought to explain the continuation of cultural preferences for foods flavoured with particular herbs or spices.
"Repeated exposure to these flavours can influence a baby’s enjoyment of them once they start weaning.”
- Try to eat a balanced diet every day, making sure you include good-quality protein, carbohydrates, dairy and a wide range of fruit and vegetables.
- Avoid eating too many sugary, fatty or very salty treats.
- If you like strong spices or flavours, eat them in the knowledge that it may help your baby enjoy them one day too. This will be useful when it comes to preparing meals that the whole family love.