Amniotic Fluid Flavored by Mom’s Diet

This category of posts addresses questions people have asked me in class or questions typed into google which somehow landed people on my blog, to which I did not know the answers or wanted to find out more details. What a fun way for me to learn something new and to share it with you!

While we were discussing the importance of excellent prenatal nutrition (and the potential consequences of poor prenatal nutrition) and the idea that what we eat affects our child in multiple ways, including flavoring both our breastmilk and our amniotic fluid, meaning that we are laying the foundations for our child’s palate and food preferences for life with our food choices while pregnant, the question was asked:

How do they know amniotic fluid is flavored? Who goes in and checks that?

Good questions! How exactly do we know? Well, a study titled Prenatal and postnatal flavor learning by human infants described the following method:

Pregnant women who planned on breastfeeding their infants were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 groups. The women consumed either 300 mL of carrot juice or water for 4 days per week for 3 consecutive weeks during the last trimester of pregnancy and then again during the first 2 months of lactation. The mothers in 1 group drank carrot juice during pregnancy and water during lactation; mothers in a second group drank water during pregnancy and carrot juice during lactation, whereas those in the control group drank water during both pregnancy and lactation. Approximately 4 weeks after the mothers began complementing their infants’ diet with cereal and before the infants had ever been fed foods or juices containing the flavor of carrots, the infants were videotaped as they fed, in counterbalanced order, cereal prepared with water during 1 test session and cereal prepared with carrot juice during another. Immediately after each session, the mothers rated their infants’ enjoyment of the food on a 9-point scale.

That’s not the only way of testing for amniotic fluid flavor. According to NPR’s article Baby’s Palate And Food Memories Shaped Before Birth, smelling extracted amniotic fluid is another way:

To determine if flavors are passed from the mother to the the baby via the amniotic fluid, researchers gave women garlic capsules or sugar capsules before taking a routine sample of their amniotic fluid — and then asked a panel of people to smell the samples.

“And it was easy,” says Mennella. “They could pick out the samples easily from the women who ate garlic.” The sense of taste is actually 90-percent smell, she added, so they knew just from the odor that the babies could taste it.

[….]

But Mennella says that not only is the amniotic fluid and breast milk in humans flavored by food just like cows, but memories of these flavors are formed even before birth. That could result in preferences for these foods or odors for a lifetime. In other words, if you eat broccoli while you’re pregnant, there’s a much better chance your baby will like broccoli.

So, now we know how we know that a mom’s food intake flavors both her amniotic fluid and her breastmilk. Of course, there’s no guarantee that if you eat lots of fresh veggies during pregnancy that you won’t have some sort of dinner table struggles with your toddler at some point, but at least you know you are giving them the best possible foundation for healthy eating. That’s how they’ll thrive! And that’s a gift that will stay with them for life.

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