Posted on 14. April 2017 by
Okay, all you parents in the weaning trenches – hands up if you’ve encountered this scenario. You’re introducing your baby to the exciting taste of a brand-new vegetable (broccoli, say, or parsnip). They eagerly open wide, take a big mouthful... and make the most incredible grimace you’ve ever seen. The puree ends up everywhere, and the baby is giving you a look that says, “Don’t EVER try that one on me again!”
Yes, that would be most of you, then.
There’s a good reason for this messy behaviour, of course, and it has to do with your baby’s development. Did you know that young babies have more taste buds than we adults do? In fact infants have over 30,000 taste buds spread throughout their mouths. By the time we hit adulthood, only about a third of these remain, mostly on our tongues. Babies actually begin to sense flavours long before they’re born – by about the 15th week of pregnancy, your baby was actually tasting the amniotic fluid inside the womb and getting familiar with the flavours of Mum’s favourite foods!
After your baby is born, they’re primed to love just one taste: the sweet flavour of breastmilk. But by around 4-6 months, when they start to be interested in trying solid food, their preferences become a bit wider – and it’s a great idea to take full advantage of their open-mindedness! The ‘window’ between the start of weaning until 9-12 months is when babies tend to be most willing to try new foods, and the foods they accept during this time seem to remain favourites throughout life... so it’s time to bring on the veg!
However, even the most open-minded of babies sometimes encounter a flavour they’re not keen on – which can lead to the scenario above. The key here is not to give up. Some (very patient and mess-tolerant) researchers have concluded that it can take babies as many as 10 to 15 tries of a new and unfamiliar flavour before they decide it’s actually sort of tasty – so if you’re coaxing in a mouthful of something quite nutritious, like broccoli or kale, it’s well worth persisting for a while. (It’s worth remembering, too, that not every face your baby pulls will mean they hate what they’re trying; some of those gurning grimaces are actually just their way of expressing surprise at a new and unfamiliar taste sensation!)
If your baby’s clearly just not enthusiastic about a new taste, one good tactic is to try mixing the ‘suspicious’ veg with another flavour that your baby loves, and gradually increasing the proportion of the less-preferred veg over time. If they’re really not having any of it, it’s also fine to give it a bit of a rest – leave it for a couple of weeks, then try, try again.
Yes, patience is key – and having a hungry Labrador on standby for cleanup duty is a plus, too. But in the end, giving your baby a taste for healthy foods is a gift that will last them a lifetime!
What flavours is your little one currently most reluctant to taste? Or perhaps you’re lucky, and they hoover down veg that even most adults won’t touch? Share your secrets with us below!