Baby's first bites and the senses
As a baby experiences food, it’s about all the senses! So have fun and enjoy your baby taking it all in. Everything is new!
The goal is this: You want to patiently respect your baby’s readiness to try new foods, flavors and textures with an urgency for your baby to try as many new foods, flavors and textures before he or she turns 1.
As we explore the senses, you might think about all the different ways a baby can try food and create memories! From adding spices and new foods or food combinations that expand what your baby tastes to cooking method that impacts how a food is experienced through sound and texture, there’s a lot of learning going on. Check out the ultimate intro to solids articles for more ideas. Keep it up!
There are 5 different tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami. Next time you take a bit of food think about taste, but also how flavors play on your tongue in addition the temperature of the food! There is a lot happening.
Our tongues have thousands of taste buds! 10,000 on average, actually. Taste buds live on the bumps on our tongue called papillae. How we each experience taste is different. Have a friend who can eat hot peppers when you can’t even lick one? About 25-30% of people are ‘supertasters’ where they experience taste much more intensely. (Think 16x more taste buds!).
Bottom line: All tastes are new (except garlic and others that your baby may have experiences through your breastmilk). If you kid is a supertaster, you’ll need to be patient, as it will take him/her more time to get used to new foods.
What we see is our first experience with a meal. Same is true for a baby. There is some research that says a kid is more likely to eat something if you present it with a smile and if it looks good. So try it! We all love smiles and good looking food, so why wouldn’t your baby?
Your baby will explore the food offered. Get ready to embrace the mess. In addition to taste buds in our mouths we also have lots of nerves. Same with on our finger tips. Your baby will want to squish and grasp new foods. Go with it.
Everyone can hear themselves chew, not just the loud chewers out there! Next time you take a bike take notice. Each food has a different sound, and that is one of the things your baby will be registering as he/she tries new foods.
Boy do we love the smell of baked goods! It reminds us of baking with mom. Some believe that link between smell, emotion and memory stems from the closeness between our amygdala, the emotional center of the brain and the hippocampus, the brain’s memory center. Smell can have a negative effect on our food memories too. If we can’t smell it impacts how we taste food.
Two other senses that Nimalil Fernando and Melanie Potock talk about in their book Raising a Healthy, Happy Eater are:
The Vestibular System is for balance. For a baby to really be able to try new foods the baby must be sitting properly. Read more about why high chairs matter in this bundle.
The Proprioceptive System is for body awareness. This is knowing where our body is, so a baby can put his hand in his mouth with coordination.
Bottom line: All these senses combine to create memories. If a baby has a memory of a food he or she is more likely to prefer that food months and years down the road. Pretty cool!
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