• Food Acceptance and Nutrition in Infants and Young Children (H Coulthard, Section Editor)
  • Published:

The Influence of Human Milk on Flavor and Food Preferences

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.

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Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Correspondence to Rebecca L. Dunn.

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Rebecca L. Dunn and Rachelle Lessen declare they have no conflict of interest.

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This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.

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This article is part of the Topical Collection on Food Acceptance and Nutrition in Infants and Young Children

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Dunn, R.L., Lessen, R. The Influence of Human Milk on Flavor and Food Preferences. Curr Nutr Rep 6, 134–140 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13668-017-0200-3

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Keywords

  • Human milk
  • Breastfeeding
  • Infant feeding
  • Flavor development
  • Sensory experiences
  • Food acceptance