What Does Breastmilk Taste Like, Part 5
From reading the first four posts in this series, we have learned why breastmilk is nature’s super food. It is full of antibodies that protect babies from illnesses and infection, it provides the perfect combination of nutrients and vitamins to help infants grow and develop, and it is constantly changing to uniquely meet each developmental stage.
But we still haven’t discussed the original question: what does breastmilk taste like? Let’s look at that now.
You Are What You Eat*
Researchers from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark have proven that breastmilk is affected by certain flavors. The scientists tested samples of women’s breastmilk before and at varying time intervals after the women ate flavored capsules. The capsules contained the same flavor compounds found in caraway seeds, menthol, banana and licorice.
Using “a dynamic headspace analysis and a gas chromatography mass spectrometry,” the researchers determined that the flavors take different amounts of time to appear in and disappear from breastmilk. It took two hours for caraway to appear in breastmilk, two to eight for menthol to appear, one hour for banana and two hours for licorice.
There were differences in how long it took for the flavors to appear and disappear, and there were differences between the women – not all breastmilk is affected in the same way. Regardless, all flavors had disappeared from all breastmilk within eight hours. (1)
“Mothers often talk about whether something in their milk may have upset their baby, but within 8 hours most flavours will be gone.” (2) And not only do mothers worry about whether they ate something that affected baby, there is actually an old wives’ tale that you should not eat certain foods while breastfeeding. That’s a crock. Various versions of this particular tale suggest that babies will become upset/gassy/colicky/offended by mothers who consume garlic, onion, watermelon (where did that one come from?!), sushi, spicy foods, and more.
Let’s clear this tale up: it is a myth. (3)
“There are NO foods that a mother should avoid simply because she is breastfeeding.” (4) Nursing mothers should try to eat a balanced diet with a wide variety of foods they enjoy. Might your baby be sensitive to watermelon? Yes, there is that chance. Not all babies dislike the taste of breastmilk after a generous serving of Spicy Curry, in fact some babies quite enjoy it. The wise course is to watch your baby’s reactions. If your baby always has an upset stomach after you eat or drink something, cut that something out. (5)
This particular old wives’ tale is laughable to me, because it is so culturally biased. Do mothers in India stop eating curry while nursing? What about women in Japan, do they suddenly stop eating sashimi while postpartum? No.
Neither should you.
Here’s an interesting fact: not only does a mother influence the taste of her breastmilk by the food she eats, but she also has an early influence on her child’s taste preferences for later in life: once he is eating solid food, a breastfed child will actually prefer to eat the foods his mother ate while nursing him.
Researchers have demonstrated that breastfed children accept a wider variety of foods than formula-fed children. The catch is, the benefit only extends to foods that the breastfeeding mother ate regularly. So a healthy, balanced diet is not only good for mother and baby’s immediate health needs, it is also beneficial for the child’s own healthy eating habits later in life. (6)
What Breastmilk Tastes Like
So what does breastmilk taste like? Does it taste like the chicken and mashed potatoes you had for dinner last night? Not so much.
I’ve tasted my own breastmilk many times. Tom has had some too out of sheer curiosity. Tom’s exact words upon sampling it:
“It tastes like melted ice cream!” I’d have to agree for the most part. It is uniquely, but not overbearingly, sweet. Maybe melted and slightly watered down ice cream. I can understand why our little ones think it is delicious.
Kieran loves his mama’s milk. This morning I asked him what it tastes like and he said “honey. Apple honey!” I like that description.
What about you, dear readers? Here is what you had to say:
Amber from Strocel.com says, “in my experience breast milk tastes like warm cow’s milk with sugar added. It’s very sweet, I can see why kids strongly prefer it to other types of milk.”
My friend Jen’s oldest said it tasted like grapes, strawberries, or popsicles.
Mammapie had a great description: breastmilk tastes “like grass (salad for lunch) and a little sweeter. It’s not sugary sweetness though. It’s more like it evokes the smell of something sweet and foodie all at once. Cause who wants sweet salad?”
My friend Heather describes it as “liquid hot sweet. No specific taste, really, to me. Both [of my kids] agree that one side is fruity and the other is like a confection. I’ve been informed they taste like, banana, coconut, peaches, chocolate and probably some other stuff I can’t remember.”
Janeen’s daughter says that “one side tastes like strawberry and the other side tastes like chocolate mint. Whenever I ask her why she wants to nurse she always tells me, ‘oh, because it’s yummy!’”
Tara at Eco Living Tips accidentally drank some pumped milk one day, but can’t describe a real taste.
I love 3 1/2 year old Azure’s description of breastmilk. She tells her mom (Abryana) that “it tastes like ‘rainbows and butterflies.’”
Lorraine, who is pregnant with #7 (congrats!!), thinks her breastmilk tastes rich and sweet. So does her hubby! Her 16 month old doesn’t like the taste of her breastmilk now that she is pregnant – it does change for many women!
Nicole from Haute Single Mama pumps, so she tastes her breastmilk. She says “When fresh, it tastes sweet with a slightly ‘nutty’ flavor… hard to describe. When it’s been in the fridge a day or two, it develops a soapy flavor… literally, it makes me wonder if I rinsed the bottles properly when washing them! I understand it’s due to an enzyme called lipase. My baby doesn’t seem to mind it though!”
Danielle from Momotics had a friend whose son said that breastmilk tasted like strawberries and cream.
Thank you everyone who stopped by and left a comment. I hope you have learned something from this series of posts, I definitely have!
*As an aside, while writing this section I couldn’t help but think of this scene from Willy Wonka.
(1) “Differential transfer of dietary flavour compounds into human breast milk,” http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6T0P-4SHF4KD-7&_user=10&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=49cc7d90289a1143059b4a2df174d534; see also “Banana-Flavored Breast Milk?,” http://www.wowowow.com/post/breast-milk-can-be-flavored-banana-baby-70359; “Breast Milk Provides Menu of Different Flavours,” http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg19926664.700?DCMP=ILC-
(2) Breast Milk Provides Menu of Different Flavours
(3) There are, of course, always exceptions. For example, mothers who have severe allergies in their family may want to consult a physician before consuming those allergens.
(4) “Can a Nursing Mom Eat This Food FAQ,” http://www.kellymom.com/nutrition/mom/mom-foods.html
(5) “How Does a Nursing Mother’s Diet Affect Her Milk?,” http://www.kellymom.com/nutrition/mom/mom-diet.html
(6) “Eat Fruits and Veggies While Breastfeeding,” http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/12/071203090135.htm. By the way, another substance that alters the taste of breastmilk is cigarette smoke. While it is preferable for a smoking mother to breastfeed rather than formula feed, she should take every step to quit smoking as soon as possible. “Fast Facts About Cigarette Smoking and Breastfeeding,” http://www.blisstree.com/breastfeeding123/fast-facts-about-cigarette-smoking-and-breastfeeding/
10 Responses to:
"What Does Breastmilk Taste Like, Part 5"
My Book Is Now Available!
For My Children: A Mother's Journal of Memories, Wishes and Wisdom
Click the cover to order now!
- When Sharing Sleep Is Tiring
- Parenting From the Inside Out
- Five Ideas to Keep Babies and Toddlers Safe from Choking
- Vote Now for Your Favorite Photos in NPN’s Flickr Contest: What Does Natural Parenting Really Look Like?
- May 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting Call for Submissions: Emergency Preparedness
Forced Weaning Due to Pregnancy
101 Things To Do Instead of Yelling or Spanking
The Effects of Circumcision on Newborn Boys
Kardashian’s Call to Cover Up
- Mother’s Day Gift Set Giveaway from moksa organics and Zoe Organics
- Natural Parents Network Holiday Gift Guide
- Giveaway: 12×16 Custom Portrait from Destany Fenton Fine Art – $220 ARV CLOSED
- Giveaway: Story Starters Game from Mama May I – $25 ARV CLOSED
- Giveaway: $35 Gift Certificate to Earthslings – $35 ARV CLOSED
- Giveaway: $30 Gift Certificate from Dominna – $30 ARV CLOSED
- Giveaway: $20 Gift Certificate to Two Pink Hearts – $20 ARV CLOSED
- Giveaway: 3 Pairs of Earrings from Job Description Mommy – $45 ARV CLOSED
- Revisionary Parenting
- Giveaway: Qwirkle Game from SeriousShops.com – $25 ARV CLOSED