Published on April 14th, 2021
Your baby will have all kinds of buds as she grows up—baby playgroup buds, neighborhood buds, elementary school buds, and of course, her original buds, Mom and Dad!
But what about taste buds?
Do babies have taste buds? Yes!
In fact, a baby’s taste buds may be more special than you might think. Knowing more about a baby’s taste buds can help you unlock new strategies for your child’s nutrition or you may also use a DNA nutrition test to find out the nutritional needs of your little one.
Baby Taste Buds Q&A
Understanding your child’s baby’s sense of taste and ability to experience different flavors can help you crack the code of nutritious and tasty meals, whether your child is about to start solid foods or is still enjoying the liquid diet of infant formula or Mom’s milk.
What are taste buds?
Taste buds are tiny sensory organs that contain taste receptor cells called gustatory cells. In adults, taste buds are located solely on the surface of the tongue. In contrast, babies have taste buds throughout their mouths, including the inside of the cheeks, throat, and palate (the roof of the mouth).
How many taste buds do babies have?
At infancy, babies have about 30,000 taste buds. To put that in perspective, adults have only around 8,000–10,000 taste buds.
Whoa! That’s a lot of taste buds! But why do babies have so many?
The tens of thousands of taste buds in your newborn baby’s mouth are an evolutionary benefit. After gaining nutrients through the womb during pregnancy, eating may be a strange and uncomfortable new experience. Those extra taste buds help a baby experience new flavors powerfully and incentivize drinking formula or breast milk to absorb important nutrients.
It’s a bit like listening to your all-time favorite song with a subwoofer and surround sound vs. a pair of cheap headphones that have accidentally been through the spin cycle once or twice. With that high-definition tasting ability, can you imagine how good foods taste?
That’s a whole lot of yum!
To a super-tasting baby, foods with high fat and sugar content taste really good. Like, insanely good. Think about the last indulgent dessert you had—an uber sugary artisanal doughnut, a deep-fried Oreo from the fair, a red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. Now, multiply that times three, cover it in freshly whipped cream and hot fudge, then put a cherry on top. That’s how good sugary and fatty things taste to babies.
Why do babies need to eat so much?
Babies desperately need the fat and sugar in formula and breast milk for their incredible growth rate. Within the first six months of life, a baby will grow about ½ an inch to an inch every month. In fact, a baby will need more calories in relation to his body weight than any other time in his life.
That growth takes a lot of energy, and fat and sugar provide the energy your baby’s body needs to grow in healthy ways. Those legions of taste buds help a baby naturally crave the nourishment he needs.
When do babies develop taste buds?
No need to check your newborn baby’s mouth for properly developing taste buds. Your baby’s taste buds develop in the womb by the end of the first trimester, meaning, your baby already has all the taste buds he’ll ever have when he’s about the size of a lemon!
Babies will have taste buds before they have:
- Fully developed ears
- Fully formed genitalia
How do taste buds develop as babies get older?
Your baby will hang onto her sweet tooth for a while. If you’ve ever baby-sat elementary-school-aged kids, you know that obtaining sugary treats are their top priority (along with staying up past their bedtimes, conquering the monkey bars, and enjoying Saturday morning cartoons). That’s because a child’s body continues to grow so much during those early years, so the built-in need for sugar sticks around to ensure a young child craves high energy-yielding foods with lots of sugars and fats.
That need for sweet food won’t be around forever. Around puberty, children gradually start to lose their taste buds. That loss plateaus in young adulthood.
That doesn’t mean your kid won’t beg you for ice cream now and then!
If my baby has such amazing taste buds, does that mean he’ll love veggies?
You may notice that almost always, children would rather clean their room, do math homework, or get along with their siblings than choke down a few bites of veggies.
That’s because with great amounts of taste buds come a great…dislike for foods that taste bitter.
Those thousands of taste buds make foods that taste slightly bitter incredibly bitter. You’ll see this in action when kids sneak a sip of their parents’ black coffee, immediately spit it out, and wonder why grown-ups drink such disgusting stuff! That’s why slightly bitter but nutritious foods like leafy greens, broccoli, and brussels sprouts taste like the enemy to a child’s super-tasting tongue.
Does that mean your child can skip the veggies and head straight to dessert? Definitely not!
Our hunter-gatherer homo sapiens ancestors’ bodies evolved to crave high fat and high sugar foods, which had the highest amounts of energy and allowed them to survive in harsh conditions. But back then, those foods weren’t always readily available. Unlike today. Our bodies haven’t exactly evolved to the new era of sugary breakfast cereals and extra cheese double pepperoni pizzas.
When your child is an infant, he’ll get the nutrients he needs from Mom’s milk or infant formula. When introducing new foods, you can help support your child’s health and nutrition by offering a variety of fruits and veggies (yes, even some of the bitter ones). A diverse array of flavors and foods can help fuel your child’s growing body.
How do I get my kid to eat veggies?
Your child’s taste buds are certainly responsible for his love of all things sugary and fatty. But taste buds aren’t the only things that can impact a baby’s palate, especially as they grow from babies to toddlers to hungry little kids.
Here are a few tips to help ensure your child enjoys a wide range of different tastes and flavors!
- Be mindful of what mom eats – When your baby is still growing in the womb, he may develop a taste for some of Mom’s favorite foods. If you’re wondering, “Does everything you eat go to your baby?”, the answer is not exactly. However, studies have shown that particularly pungent tastes like spice, garlic, and even carrot juice can be present in amniotic fluid—the stuff your baby floats around in all day during pregnancy—and can impact a baby’s preferred foods.
So when your baby grows up, those strong flavors may leave their mark and become some of your child’s favorite foods. To help ensure your child enjoys a variety of foods, try keeping your diet varied while you’re pregnant (yup, that means tons of veggies for you, Mom!).
- Take advantage of the “flavor window” – A baby’s first taste of solid food beyond milk or formula can happen between 4-7 months. This period is called the “flavor window” because nutritionists and researchers believe that a baby is most open to trying new flavors during this time. So when it’s time for first bites, choose the best first baby foods that introduce a variety of different flavors (even if your kid makes a face at something she thinks is yucky with a capital “UCK!”).
- Learn about your child’s genetics – Some adults can’t stand the idea of eating bitter things like coffee, beer, or greens even today. Does that mean they’ve hung onto their super-tasting powers? Not necessarily. There’s a genetic factor to a person’s sensitivity to bitterness. People who are genetically predisposed to high bitterness sensitivity may always make a face at eating broccoli or drinking a cup of black coffee. Knowing if your child is sensitive to bitter foods can help ease your journey to introducing nutritious foods into her meals. But how do you find that out? SneakPeek Traits.
Get a Taste of Knowledge with SneakPeek Traits
Your baby has a super-powered sweet tooth, enabling her to gobble up the high amounts of fat and sugar in formula or breast milk. But when she starts tasting new foods, will she be an adventurous eater of greens or will she venture closer to sweets flavors?
You can find out your child’s genetic predisposition for bitterness sensitivity (and so much more) with SneakPeek Traits.
SneakPeek Traits is a DNA test that illuminates the secrets of your child’s genetic code. You can learn whether your child has a sensitivity to bitter foods (as predicted by genetics) as well as other amazing information about his unique genetic profile such as:
- Likely Body Mass Index (or BMI)
- Likelihood of vitamin deficiency for 7 key vitamins including vitamins A, B12, B6, C, D, E, and folate.
Each genetic report comes with an inside look at your child’s nutritional profile as predicted by her genetics as well as resources to help you understand your child’s individual food needs. This inside information is vital because it can be easy to miss things such as vitamin D deficiency in babies symptoms. Learn why certain vitamins are crucial to your child’s development, what foods are perfect to help ensure proper vitamin intake, as well as healthy recipes to help address your child’s food needs (with tips on how to sneak bitter foods into nutritious meals!).
Food will be an important part of your child’s growth and development. And with a little help from SneakPeek Traits, you can ensure your child has all the tools she needs to discover the wellness she deserves.
NPR. IN Baby’s ‘First Bite,’ A Chance to Shape a Child’s Taste. https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/02/04/465305656/in-babys-first-bite-a-chance-to-shape-a-childs-taste
The Guardian, Changing tastes; food and aging. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2013/jan/29/changing-tastes-food-and-agingEarth Sky. Why Do Fatty Foods Taste So Good. https://earthsky.org/human-world/why-do-fatty-foods-taste-so-good-2#:~:text=But%20why%20do%20we%20enjoy,the%20best%20source%20of%20energy.