How does what a Pregnant Woman Eats Affect the Child in the Womb?

Studies show that the foods a mother eats during pregnancy can affect her child's dietary preferences throughout his or her life. Both flavors and odors change the taste of the mother's amniotic fluid and breast milk, and they can even change the structure of the part of a baby's brain that processes tastes, influencing his or her dietary likes and dislikes.

More facts about diet and pregnancy:

  • Mothers who eat only bland foods, or only one type of food, tend to have children who are more picky eaters. In studies with mice, the mice babies from mothers who had been fed a bland diet during their pregnancy were 40 percent less interested in trying new foods after they were born.

  • This impact holds true for traditionally baby-unfriendly foods such as carrots as well as stronger flavors such as mint or cinnamon. In one study, babies whose mothers drank a lot of carrot juice during their pregnancy showed a preference for carrot-flavored cereal; those whose mothers did not drink the juice would not eat the carrot-flavored cereal.

  • The way the brain processes scents and flavors is changed by the mother's diet as well. Everyone has receptors called glomeruli that are associated with certain flavors. The more of that flavor the mother eats, the bigger that particular glomerulus is likely to be in the baby.

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