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Breast-Feeding, Early Diet Affect Infant Food Choices

But repeated exposure to foods improves acceptability regardless of breast-feeding status

TUESDAY, Dec. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Breast-fed infants whose mothers regularly eat certain fruits and vegetables may be more likely to accept those foods after weaning. But in both breast-fed and formula-fed infants, repeated dietary exposure to such foods may be more important in determining acceptability, researchers report in the December issue of Pediatrics.

Catherine A. Forestell, Ph.D., and Julie A. Mennella, Ph.D., of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, studied 45 infants aged 4 months to 8 months -- 44 percent of whom were breast-fed -- and randomly assigned them to be fed either green beans or green beans and peaches for eight consecutive days.

The researchers found that breast-fed infants -- whose mothers ate more fruit than mothers who formula-fed their infants -- were more likely to prefer peaches. They also found that there was no difference between breast-fed and formula-fed infants in preference for green beans, even though the formula-feeding mothers tended to eat more green beans. But they found that all infants who had repeated dietary exposure to green beans, with or without peaches, tended to consume more green beans (56.8 versus 93.6 grams).

"Once weaned, infants who receive repeated dietary exposure to a food eat more of it and may learn to like its flavor," the authors conclude. "However, because infants innately display facial expressions of distaste in response to certain flavors, caregivers may hesitate to continue offering these foods. Mothers should be encouraged to provide their infants with repeated opportunities to taste fruits and vegetables and should focus not only on their infants facial expressions but also on their willingness to continue feeding."

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