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University of Copenhagen
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Breast milk flavours prepare baby for solids

University of Copenhagen researchers have discovered another reason why breast milk is best

As well as benefiting the child’s intelligence, social mobility and health, breastfeeding may also help babies develop a more sophisticated palate, writes British daily, the Guardian.

Researchers at Copenhagen’s Centre for Advanced Food Studies tested breast milk to see how the mother’s diet affects flavour.

Breast milk, with banana flavour

They found that different kinds of food cause slight variations in the taste of breast milk.

These variations prepare babies for the wide range of foods they may encounter once they are weaned.

Researcher Helene Hausner, conducted the study of diet and breast milk by recruiting 18 breastfeeding women and giving them edible capsules containing distinctive flavours, including banana, liquorice, caraway seed and menthol.

Menthol lasts longest

To see if the flavours emerged in the mothers’ breast milk, she tested samples of milk taken before and up to eight hours after taking the capsules.

Around one per cent of the flavour compounds were detectable in the breast milk, although some remained present for longer than others.

Banana flavour peaked within the first hour, while menthol persisted for eight hours.

Hausner also checked whether breastfed babies were more likely to eat certain meals than bottle-fed babies. She found breastfed babies were happier eating caraway flavoured food than babies fed on formula.

Exposes babies to new flavours

»Diet does change the flavouring of the milk, but it’s not like if the mother eats apple pie, the infant thinks, ‘Mmm, apple pie’, and gets to like it,« explains Hausner.

»It seems that breastfed infants get used to small flavour changes and so they become more accepting of a variety of flavours compared to formula-fed infants.«

She also examined the flavours of different formula milks and found that they varied between manufacturers.

»If women are feeding their babies formula, it might be best for them to vary the type of formula to get their babies used to changes in flavours,« she says.