LONDON: Breastfeeding mothers’ diets play a role in determining what kind of eaters their babies may grow up to be, said experts.
When nursing mothers eat a variety of flavours, including spicy food, they help to enhance their babies’ taste buds, said Dr Jennifer Wider, medical advisor for the Society for Women’s Health Research. In an online Daily Mail article on Wednesday (Jan 17), she said that there was no “good” scientific evidence that spicy food has an adverse effect on breastfed babies.
“It's important to remember that breast milk is not formulated directly from the digestive tract; it is formulated from the mother's blood,” said Dr Wider. “So, if [a nursing mother] eats cruciferous vegetables, for example, the nutrients will be pulled into the breast milk, but the gassy component may not affect the baby.”
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the mother’s body takes an average of four to six hours to make breast milk from the food she eats. However, body chemistry and metabolism can speed up the process to as fast as one hour, or delay it for as long as 24 hours.
After the consumed food is digested into protein, fats, carbohydrates, minerals and water, the various components are transported to the mammary glands via the blood vessels, along with flavours and scent molecules. The same process happens during pregnancy when the baby consumes what the mother eats through the bloodstream and amniotic fluid.
Hence, if the mother’s diet consisted of spicy food during pregnancy, the chances are high that the baby is already accustomed to strong flavours, said Dr Paula Meier, professor of paediatrics and nursing at Rush University Medical Centre.
“Breast-fed babies are generally easier to feed later because they've had this kind of variety experience of different flavours from their very first stages of life, whereas a formula-fed baby has a uniform experience,” said Lucy Cooke, a senior research associate at University College London.
“The absolute key thing is repeated exposure to a variety of different flavours as soon as you can possibly manage; that is a great thing for food acceptance,” said Cooke, who specialises in children's nutrition.