What Does Breastmilk Taste Like, Part 5

January 18th, 2010 by Dionna | 12 Comments
Posted in Feed with Love and Respect

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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.

My friend Tara, nursing while she reads with her older children.

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!

My friend Jenny nursing her beautiful daughter, Molly.


*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/

12 Responses to:
"What Does Breastmilk Taste Like, Part 5"

  1. Katje

    Great series!

    I remember once reading, over 10 years ago, the hypothesis that vanilla ice cream is so popular because of its resemblance to breastmilk.

  2. Amber   AmberStrocel

    This has been an amazing series! And I’m glad to finally read the answers to the original question. :)

  3. Heather   xakana

    Awesome! Interestingly, Lilly as a little baby hated my milk after I’d eat gumbo. It was so strong, you could smell it in my milk and she would scream at the taste. She would also get gassy and sick if I ate broccoli (I tried it a few times and it happened every time). These are now two of her favorite foods. Naomi never noticed the gumbo in my milk (she loves it now, too) but she got rashes from broccoli. So my kids seem to start out intolerant to broccoli, lol, but I’ve never had a problem with dairy or any other common allergens. I have seen them take stronger after some foods (especially if I drink coffee, they both want to nurse constantly after that, but Naomi’s sensitive to the caffeine if I have too much and becomes fussy–Lilly becomes sleepy).

    It’s fascinating.

    Food tastes start getting shaped in utero, as babies can taste in the womb, flavors pass through, but I have no idea how they found that out. So it’s believed that between in utero and breastfeeding, that’s how baby’s taste is initially influenced.

  4. I ate anything and everything with my first daughter, and she is still drinking “milk of mommy” at nearly 3. Her younger sister would occasionally scream in pain for hours-after talking with several friends on twitter I gave up dairy for a week. She hasn’t had an episode since. I love dairy, but I do believe it was causing her problem. I am going to request allery testing to see if it is an allergy or a protein intolerance. That said, I would never suggest monitoring food intake unless there is a significant and prolonged problem.

    I love the answers to what breastmilk tastes like! I have tasted mine out of curiosity and it is definitely sweet. I will have to ask my older daughter and see what she says. :)

  5. This was so interesting! Thanks for doing the research and organizing it all. It really was very fun to read!

  6. According to my 36 month old, my left side tastes of orange juice and might right tastes of cider. :)

  7. Our Sentiments   oursentiments

    Wow great information! I always thought it was funny when K2 was young and people would say I would have to limit milk because of da da da da. It’s not like my breasts are blenders people.

    You also got me thinking about what my milk tastes like… Should I try?

  8. kaila

    Thanks for all the great info you had in all the breastmilk posts! That picture of Tara is wonderful!

  9. Dionna   CodeNameMama

    Thanks all! I learned a lot researching these posts, but I gotta tell you – I’m happy to write about something different ;)

    Our Sentiments: I try everything I give Kieran, I don’t expect him to eat/drink something that I wouldn’t. I say go for it :)

  10. Justine   fullbellysis

    Great post! Just wanted to let you know that I’ve linked to it in a post I just wrote for my blog: http://fullbellysisters.blogspot.com/2011/11/self-care-challenge-day-4-101-ways-to.html

  11. Mokarena

    My 2 year old says breastmilk tastes like Cheerios. I would assume it is the sweetened kind. If breastmilk is already sweet and I eat a lot of nuts, that makes sense why he says it tasted like Cheerios.

  12. DM

    Thank God for this website, I just tasted my daughters milk after being in the refrigerator and it tastes like soap, like the article stated toward the end. The baby doesn’t seem to mind it.

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