Researchers from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, have found that what a mother eats has a fairly instant effect on the taste of her breast milk, as well as influencing what her child preferred to eat.

An infant’s first flavour experiences may be through the transfer of dietary flavour compounds into breast milk, say researchers.

Helene Hausner and team asked 18 lactating mothers to consume capsules with various flavourings, such as caraway seed, liquorice, menthol, and banana (100 mg d-carvone, l-menthol, 3-methylbutyl acetate and trans-anethole). The mothers provided samples of breast milk before taking the capsules and several times after. The milk was collected 2, 4, 6, and 8 hours after each capsule was consumed and analysed by a dynamic headspace method and gas chromatography-mass spectroscopy. The quantities of compounds were adjusted according to milk fat content variations.

They found that flavours get into the milk and stay there at different rates and speeds. The Caraway and liquorice compounds reached their peaks in the breast milk two hours after consumption, while the banana compound became undetectable after one hour. All flavours were gone from the breast milk within eight hours.

The findings in this study might help mothers understand why their child does not want to feed. Hausner says it is possible that breastfed babies may be more receptive to flavours than bottle-fed babies.

“Differential transfer of dietary flavour compounds into human breast milk”
Helene Hausner, Wender L.P. Bredie, Christian Mølgaard, Mikael Agerlin Petersen and Per Moller
Physiology & Behavior doi:10.1016/j.physbeh.2008.05.007
Click here to view Abstract online

Physiology & Behavior, BBC, The New Scientist

Written by – Christian Nordqvist