Catherine A Forestell and Julie A Mennella

Food choices during pregnancy and lactation are influenced by a variety of factors. While internal factors, such as cravings and aversions, play an important role especially during the first trimester of pregnancy, environmental factors such as cultural food practices and beliefs often dictate the types of foods eaten throughout pregnancy and lactation. Such traditional food practices serve to predispose infants to flavors that are characteristic of their mother's culture and geographical region. As discussed herein, amniotic fluid and human milk are composed of flavors that directly reflect the foods, spices, and beverages eaten by or inhaled by (e.g., tobacco) the mother. Because the olfactory and taste systems are functioning by the last two trimesters, these flavors are detected early in life, and early experience can bias behavioral response to these flavors later in life. Although more research is needed to understand the mechanisms involved in early flavor learning, these pre- and early-postnatal flavor exposures likely serve to facilitate the transition from fetal life through the breastfeeding period to the initiation of a varied solid food diet. Such learning is the first, but not the only, way in which children learn to appreciate and prefer the flavors of the foods cherished by their culture.

Keywords: Flavor, food choice, taste, smell, lactation, pregnancy, culture

New Mothers Guide to Breast Feeding

New Mothers Guide to Breast Feeding

For many years, scientists have been playing out the ingredients that make breast milk the perfect food for babies. They've discovered to day over 200 close compounds to fight infection, help the immune system mature, aid in digestion, and support brain growth - nature made properties that science simply cannot copy. The important long term benefits of breast feeding include reduced risk of asthma, allergies, obesity, and some forms of childhood cancer. The more that scientists continue to learn, the better breast milk looks.

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