What Your Kid Eats In Utero Affects His Later Life

Maybe it was all those low-fat yogurts.  Or the diet soda.  Or maybe just the cutting out the M&Ms.  Maybe this explains why my son (who, granted was born at 8.15 pounds) now is considered underweight, at 12.

A new study has found that bad (or good) eating habits start in the womb.

According to Kristin Wartman at the NYT, "Babies born to mothers who eat a diverse and varied diet while pregnant and breast-feeding are more open to a wide range of flavors. They’ve also found that babies who follow that diet after weaning carry those preferences into childhood and adulthood. Researchers believe that the taste preferences that develop at crucial periods in infancy have lasting effects for life."

So my trying not to gain too much weight in pregnancy resulted in my skinny son?

Not so sure.  I did eat a wide variety of foods when I was pregnant.  But why does Phillip eat only white foods, to this day?  Pasta.  Rice.  Noodles.  Did I mention he only eats starches?

“What’s really interesting about children is, the preferences they form during the first years of life actually predict what they’ll eat later,” Wartman quotes Julie Mennella, a biopsychologist and researcher at the Monell Center. “Dietary patterns track from early to later childhood but once they are formed, once they get older, it’s really difficult to change — witness how hard it is to change the adult. You can, but it’s just harder. Where you start, is where you end up.”      

OK, so we've gradually moved him to some red things, like tomato sauce, and raspberries, and even blueberries, and occasionally he'll eat a Hershey's kiss.  But that's just about it.  And I can't really, much as I'd like to, put it down to my healthy eating when I was pregnant -- because I wound up gaining 50 pounds anyway.

So maybe it was my fault.  "“It’s our fundamental belief that during evolution, we as humans are exposed to flavors both in utero and via mother’s milk that are signals of things that will be in our diets as we grow up and learn about what flavors are acceptable based on those experiences,” Gary Beauchamp, the director of the Monell Center,who did the study, tells Wartman. “Infants exposed to a variety of flavors in infancy are more willing to accept a variety of flavors, including flavors that are associated with various vegetables and so forth and that might lead to a more healthy eating style later on.”

Maybe we didn't expose him to enough variety after he was born.  And I admit, it's a lot easier feeding the kid hamburger and pasta every night than trying to get him to try sausage or sushi.

Wartman wrote her article mainly to warn about obesity in pregnancy, because the research seemed to show that those who overate in pregnancy passed this tendency on to their babies.  But maybe, it was the formula, in the end.

Babies fed formula are at a disadvantage because the flavors in packaged formula never change. But according to Ms. Mennella, Wartman writes, the opportunity to expose those babies to a range of flavors is not lost. “Just because you’re formula-fed, it’s not hopeless,” she said. “Babies learn through repeated exposure, so the more varied the diet, the more likely they’ll be to accept a novel food.”        

I guess all that matters is that your kid is healthy and happy.  Maybe someday I can introduce him to veal or vichyssoisse (my mother-in-law's pushing gefilte fish, but that never worked on me).  Maybe I'll just try vitamins.


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