I am starting to fall in love with being pregnant. I am just starting to really feel baby kicking frequently and it is sooo so so exciting!!! I can't see anything yet and my husband can't feel anything yet.
I decided to write a post on eating after speaking to some coworkers of mine about their children and their feeding difficulties. You all know someone that sounds like this, "My kid only eats chicken nuggets and french fries" "They won't touch a vegetable." As an SLP that does a lot of feeding therapy, hearing this makes me cringe. At a party recently I was with my friend's 2 year old son and I asked her what kind of an eater he is.. "Oh he's great! He eats everything and doesn't really make demands about food." This was followed shortly by "No mommy only with dip," as he refused to eat the chicken without the ketchup. Now that kind of thing is bound to happen, you say one thing then 5 seconds later they do the opposite, but it really just happens like that. They start out eating everything (I hear that too 'They used to eat anything!!') and then slowly they make their preferences known...
Food is commonly used by kids (subconsciously I think) to gain control. There really isn't a lot they can control, but knowing they can control a situation is power. This is done by some of the sweetest kids so I don't even know if they know how manipulative they are being, but it happens ALL. THE. TIME. "He ate that for you? Why won't he eat it when I give that to him?" It's usually because he knows that he can get what he wants and that eventually, you will give him the food he really wants.
Is there an easier way to avoid power struggles when kids start eating? Can I foster a good, healthy palate while in utero? Can I avoid those kinds of conversations and struggles now that I will be on the other side of things? I set out to find out..because I will be having none of that nonsense. Like any mom I want to see kids reaching for fruit, not Doritos.
Well, what I found was fascinating! Up until now, my knowledge of food is for people who are out of the womb, but now I have to dig a little deeper for the baby inside. It turns out that as of week 13-15, babies can start tasting foods via the amniotic fluid. Exposing children to flavors is a lot like exposing them to the sounds they will hear, the familiarity is comforting. A study performed where moms ate carrots vs. did not eat carrots had babies that reacted accordingly when they started eating, so the babies of the carrot eating moms were more likely to eat the carrots and not make faces vs. the babies who were not exposed in utero to carrots made more faces of disgust (or unfamiliarity) with carrots. That means that more than 5 months after they were in the womb that they are holding onto that flavor memory!! Amazing! Think weeks 15-40 give or take that's a long period of time they have been 'eating' already.
I will post a link to the article here. The article didn't cite the author, but I found it to be insightful.
Mennella JA, Jagnow CP, Beauchamp GK. 2001. Prenatal and Postnatal Flavor Learning by Human Infants. Pediatrics. 107(6):E88. Just in case you're into the original research on this topic.
What should I be Doing Now?
As someone who has been super conscious of eating healthy anyway during this pregnancy, I feel confident that I have exposed the baby to a lot of different flavors. I'm not going to say the baby never tasted ice cream or cake, but I try to limit it. I don't eat things with natural or artificial flavors, stick to mostly vegetables and no gluten (a story for another day).
Then I thought about the kids whose parents are eating soda and Doritos and ice cream all day because they are 'eating for two' and need to gain weight anyway. This could be why we are facing a generation of super picky eaters, as well as a generation of obese children with Type II diabetes (yikes!!). I see no reason why exposing kids to healthy foods shouldn't start in utero. There is literally no down side to doing this (that I can think of). I'm sure the flavors are also in breast milk, but that's research for another day.
Will I be able to avoid the kid who tries to get away with choosing their preferred foods and trying to sucker me into making them a completely different dinner, I doubt it (but I will resist!) If you can set up the baby to enjoy savory rather than sweet foods, you may be giving them an edge though. Sugar addiction happens to almost everyone and the less sugar you give them early on, the less they will like it. I've seen this first hand with my other friend's baby. Since they never give her any sugar, she didn't even want birthday cake. A kid that craves veggies is a rarity these days, but maybe a generation of moms who are diligent about exposing their kids to vegetables in utero could change that? I'm going to try my best..