There was an article in the Science pages of The Telegraph yesterday about the effects of breastfeeding on your child’s tastes in later life.
The bare bones of the research were nothing new – your diet affects the way your milk tastes. Just as we are aware that what we eat during pregnancy is important for our developing child, we know that our diet affects the quality (and quantity) of our milk.
I posted the link on Facebook, filed it for future reference, and moved on. So why is it still bothering me?
The focus of the article was on ensuring that mothers ate enough fruit and vegetables while breastfeeding, especially between the critical ages of 2 and 5 months.
Dr Gary Beauchamp, director of the Monell Chemical Senses Center, in Philadelphia, who led the research, believes that
By exposing infants at this very sensitive period is appears to be possible to make them like something that they would otherwise deem to be horrible. If we could enhance consumption of vegetables amongst pregnant and nursing women, it ought to impact on their children’s later food choices and result in healthier eating.
I enjoy my vegetables and manage my 5-a-day with ease. In fact, thanks to the wonderful “Mr MilkChic” who is a great cook, I generally feel quite smug about my healthy, well-balanced and varied diet.
But… until my daughter was at least 6 months old my focus was purely on calories. I’m not talking about calorie control, or crazy celeb post-baby diets here. I’m talking about managing to get enough calories into my body, one-handed, while looking after a baby.
For those 6 months or so, as well as my healthy balanced diet, I ate huge amounts of cake, chocolate and biscuits. I needed them just to remain awake and functioning!
I don’t think it’s really harmed me – my weight has plateaued at about 1/2 a stone above my pre-baby weight, which as I am unable to exercise and am 6 cup sizes bigger than I was, seems fair. I figure that when the small one is weaned and my back has recovered, I will be much the same as before, physically if not mentally.
But now I am worrying about the harm to my daughter’s fledgling tastebuds. Has my colossal appetite for chocolate buttons cancelled out the benefit of my otherwise balanced meals and given her a sweet tooth that will haunt her in later life? I really hope not. Short of employing a full time chef, I don’t think breastfeeding would have been sustainable on healthy food alone.
To be fair, it isn’t the Telegraph’s fault that I’m feeing guilty. The article was balanced and well-written. And there is little I can do to change things now, except be mindful that my daughter may have a propensity for chocolate milk abuse.
So, as I don’t want to pass on a guilt complex as well as a sweet tooth, I am listening to the ever practical KellyMom, who says that “Making women think that they must maintain â€˜perfectâ€™ diets in order to have thriving breastfed babies is an unnecessary obstacle to breastfeeding”.
Besides, one day I dream of another baby, and what would maternity leave be without cake?