When I was breastfeeding my daughter, I didn't have many family or friends who had done it, which meant I was asked a lot of questions. The one I was asked the most was about the taste of my breastmilk ? Everyone wanted to know if I had tasted my own breast milk and if I had, what did it taste like. Because I'm not Chandler Bing, I could tell them that it tasted like vanilla milk, but I wasn't sure if that changed depending on what I ate. If food can make your breast milk taste different, could I give my child her own customized menu?
Well, kind of. Interestingly enough, research has found that breast milk can be permeated by certain flavors. Back in 2008, a study published in Physiology & Behavior gave 18 lactating mothers different flavor capsules, and then took samples of each mother's breast milk to see if the flavor affected the taste. The flavors included menthol, d-carvone (the flavor in caraway seeds), 3-methylbutyl acetate (the flavor found in bananas), and trans-anethole (the flavor found in fennel and liquorice). Each one seemed to affect milk in different ways, leading researchers to believe that flavors from a mother's diet enter the breast milk selectively and in fairly small amounts.
But it turns out that those flavors are enough to enhance your little one's palate. According to an article from NPR, both amniotic fluid and breast milk can be influenced by your diet and your baby can develop memories around these flavors, making them more likely to enjoy something they tasted while in the womb or breastfeeding.
Of course, just because you eat nothing but green beans doesn't mean your child isn't going to throw them on the floor in favor of ice cream. But it's worth a try if you want your little one to chow down on certain foods, right? In fact, Baby Center notes that unless your baby is showing signs of being very fussy after certain meals, you can pretty much eat whatever you want while breastfeeding. But you don't have to assume that your diet is what's causing your baby discomfort. Nicholas Stettler, assistant professor of pediatrics and epidemiology at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia told ABC News that it's already known that flavor is passed on to breast milk, but no one's quite sure if it can help your child's health by eating certain things to give them a taste for it, or if it's simply a plus to being breastfed.
Regardless of what you eat, know that, in some amount, it's flavoring your breast milk. These four foods have evidence backing up their flavor enhancements, so if you want to know for sure that your child is getting a luxury taste of breast milk, fill your plate with these flavors.
Julie Menella, a researcher at the Monell Chemical Senses Center told NPR that garlic is a flavor that has been proven to be transmitted into a mother's breast milk. In fact, garlic capsules were given to mothers and participants in the 2008 study and the garlic samples were easily picked out of a line-up. According to Parents, a study in the '90s also found that babies who were breastfeeding from mothers that ate a garlic pill nursed longer, sucked harder, and drank more of the garlic-flavored milk.
The study of flavor compounds and lactating mothers published in Physiology & Behavior found that while mint didn't seem to affect a mother's milk too much, it peaked around six hours after it was ingested, flavoring the milk.
Julie Menella conducted another study, and found that carrots affected a mother's breast milk and influenced a baby's taste for the vegetable. Her research included having breastfeeding mothers drink carrot juice every day, and then offering carrot-flavored cereal to those babies. The children who had ingested carrot-flavored breast milk ate more of the carrot-flavored cereal than the other children and seemed to enjoy it more.
4Basically Everything You Eat
OK, so there may be evidence backing specific flavors, but pretty much everything you eat affects your breast milk. The Mayo Clinic notes that eating a wide variety of foods is sure to expose your little one to all different types of flavors as your breast milk changes with your diet.