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Taste Bud Development in Babies

When Does the Sense of Taste Develop?

Feeding your baby through the first year of their life is an exciting journey - introducing them to new textures, tastes, and flavors as they grow. But as they move from the newborn stage to a one-year-old, their taste preferences and taste buds undergo some major changes. Knowing about these changes will help you feed them the way that works best for them as they grow.  

Parents often wonder, when do babies get taste buds? The truth is that babies are born with a sense of taste - they actually develop taste buds in the womb. Your baby absorbs the flavors of the mother’s food choices during pregnancy through amniotic fluid. And as your baby grows, their sense of taste changes and they can distinguish different flavors. 

That explains why their preferences for foods seem to shift - it’s a natural process. For example, babies around 4-7 months are pretty open to trying most new foods, but toddlers are notoriously picky eaters. 

Taste Bud Timeline 

Looking at the timeline of baby taste bud development can help clue you into what your baby wants and needs to be eating during the first year of life. 

Newborn to 3 Months 

Babies are born with a surprisingly sensitive sense of taste - they may even have more widely distributed taste buds than adults. With taste buds on the back of the tonsils, the back of the throat, and the tongue, newborns can tell the difference between sweet and bitter flavors. 

They naturally prefer sweeter tastes like breastmilk and are exposed to new flavors through breastmilk as well. That means breastfeeding is a great chance to introduce your baby to new tastes early on. 

3 to 6 Months 

In this stage, babies begin to use their tongues more to explore the world. This phase is full of curiosity and also caution for parents, as you need to be quite careful of what your baby is picking up and putting in their mouth!

Babies at this age are beginning to explore more textures as well as different tastes. They also develop the ability to taste salty flavors, though that doesn’t mean giving them added salt is a good idea. They now have a pretty complete range of taste buds, and are able to taste sweet, salty, savory, bitter, and sour flavors. 

6 to 12 Months

This stage is often both exciting and frustrating - babies develop the ability to pick up solid foods by themselves around eight months, and so they can begin to feed themselves and explore new foods. Babies will love some foods right away and eat them happily. 

But experiencing new tastes and textures after six months of breastmilk and formula can also be a little overwhelming for new eaters. Babies at this stage will often reject foods the first few times out of surprise, but don’t stop offering them - it can take up to eight tries to successfully introduce your baby to a new food. 

Do Babies Inherit Preferred Tastes?

Parents can hope - or worry - that their baby will inherit their food preferences or dislikes. If you’re a picky eater, you might worry that your baby will be one as well. And adventurous eaters often want to raise children with the same attitude towards food. 

But truthfully, your baby’s taste preferences are affected by many different factors. Babies tend to prefer foods they were exposed to in the womb and during breastfeeding, but they also lean towards liking foods they’re exposed to often.

And of course, babies base a lot of their reactions to foods on how their parents react to them. If you make a face every time you encounter broccoli, your baby will pick up on that and probably do the same. Modeling positive behaviors is helpful when raising healthy eaters. 

Helping Your Baby Enjoy Different Foods 

If you want to encourage your baby to eat and enjoy a wide variety of foods, that’s a great goal! There are a few steps you can take to help your baby explore different foods. 

Letting babies explore foods at their own pace is important - pushing them to eat foods they don’t enjoy out of a desire to broaden their palate could actually backfire. But don’t let one negative reaction put you off. Introducing a food repeatedly can help babies get used to a new flavor or texture slowly. 

Exposing your baby to a wide variety of foods, including different textures and tastes, is very important. That’s why at Tiny Organics, we aim to introduce your child to their first 100 flavors - evidence shows that children who are exposed to a wider variety of fruits and vegetables earlier have a higher intake of them as they grow. That’s how we help you raise a healthy eater for life!