Babies use their taste buds and mouths to discover and explore food as well as pretty much anything they can get their little hands on. It’s a crucial part of baby development and we should encourage it, while vetoing dangerous objects! Here are 10 simple ways to stimulate your baby’s taste buds from as early as three months into pregnancy.
1. Eat the rainbow
Did you know that babies’ taste buds are awakened before they are even born at around three months into pregnancy? By four months they are able to distinguish between different flavours such as sweet, salty, sour and bitter. Whatever you eat while pregnant, they will be able to taste through the sucking and swallowing of amniotic fluid. You can stimulate baby’s taste buds at this early stage by eating a nutrient-rich diet full of different flavours. Some even say, the greater variety of food you consume during pregnancy, the less of a fussy eater your baby will be, anyone who’s survived a fussy eater will know this is worth a shot.
Unlike formula, the flavour of breast milk alters from feed to feed depending on the mother’s diet. So if you eat a healthy diet full of different flavours such as oily fish, spicy curries, citrus fruits, vegetables and herbs etc, your baby will be able to taste them in your breast milk. And thus, in theory, be more open to new and different tastes and textures when it comes to weaning.
3. Start with something simple
Babies tend to have a sweeter palette early on during the weaning stage. So it’s a good idea to start them off on their great taste adventure with something sweet (but not sugary). Pear puree is a great start.
4. Introduce spices early
Many parents shy away from offering babies and indeed children spicy foods, mistakenly thinking that they prefer blander varieties, but in some countries offering babies spicy foods is completely the norm from as early as 7 or 8 months. Offering spices like cumin and coriander (in tiny amounts) can really unleash your baby’s taste buds and hopefully encourage them to be more adventurous with food in later life too. Certain spices such as turmeric also have fantastic health benefits.
5. Encourage them to be adventurous
Don’t get stuck in a rut. Just because your baby gobbles up that sweet potato puree every time it’s offered, doesn’t mean you should only offer that. Variety is key, so try to offer a range of different tastes and textures as this may well help your baby enjoy a wider variety of foods.
6. Let them make a mess
It might be messy, but learning to feed themselves is a crucial part of baby development and important for fine tuning their sense of hand-eye coordination – an important baby development milestone. Playing with food, sucking on a carrot stick or crumbling a soft biscuit on their tongue is an immensely satisfying experience for a baby which shouldn’t be denied just because things can get a bit messy. Let’s face it, mess is just a part of having a baby isn’t it? It’s all part of the learning process and perfectly safe as long as you are there to supervise at all times.
7. Experiment with texture
The texture of what you feed your baby is just as important what it tastes like and surprisingly, your baby doesn’t actually need teeth to eat lumpy food, so you needn’t delay feeding textured food until they have milk teeth. Lumpy textures are important for the development of speech muscles. Introduce lumpier foods such as a potato and carrot puree with tiny lumps in it at around 7 months old, leading up to a coarse or fork mash from 8 months.
8. Say no to salt and sugar
Avoid giving flavour to your baby’s food using salt and refined sugar. Excessive amounts of salt can be dangerous as baby’s kidneys are not developed enough to process high amounts of salt. A predisposition for sugary foods can lead to dental decay as well as other serious health problems including diabetes and obeseity. There are plenty of other ways to flavour food and enhance their palettes using herbs and spices.
9. Set a good example and don’t give up
Baby’s are masters of imitation so if they see you expressing a strong dislike for a food type or equally never see you eating fruit or vegetables, they are unlikely to try it themselves. Make sure your baby sees you eating a variety of foods and showing how much you like it by rubbing your tummy and saying ‘Mmm yummy’ which will encourage them to try new foods through the desire to imitate you.
10. Follow your baby’s lead
There’s no rush to introduce everything at once. Let your baby explore new tastes and textures at his own pace. With a little bit of encouragement and support you can help him get used to different types of foods and become confident about tasting them. If your baby doesn’t instantly take to new food type such as avocado be patient. Sometimes it takes a number of different tries on a number of different occasions for them to accept a new flavour, don’t give up!