Can Babies Taste?

Can Babies TasteI accidentally dripped a drop of my baby’s vitamin on my hand this afternoon. Mommy wasn’t around to scold me so I used the most convenient method of cleaning up: I licked it.

Surprisingly, my newborn’s vitamin had a sweet taste. I could definitely taste the sweetness in even a single spilled drop. Since I could taste the sweet flavor, I wondered if my daughter could as well. I was curious to know the answer to: can babies taste?

Not only can two-week old baby taste, she could taste from the time she was in the womb. Research shows fetuses as young as 21 weeks have taste preferences. Most babies prefer sweet tastes and even premature babies prefer sweet to sour or bitter.

Because the taste preference for sweet occurs so early in development, researchers believe it must be genetic. Flavors can be too sweet for babies even though most babies still prefer very sweet to sour or bitter. Similar experiments were also performed on rats and sheep.

Can Babies Taste - VitaminIt makes sense that the baby vitamin has a sweet flavor. With most babies’ preference for sweet, they will be more likely to swallow the full dropper. They are also less apt to complain about taking their vitamin.

Unfortunately for us, my baby doesn’t seem to care for the flavor of the vitamin. If I feed it to her directly from the dropper she will play with it in her mouth before letting it dribble down the side of her face. If I try to push the dropper further in her mouth she spit up the liquid and start crying.

My baby will only swallow the vitamin if I first disguise it by putting the entire dropper into a full bottle of pumped breastmilk or formula. If the concentration is low then my daughter drinks the entire bottle just as normal. However if there is too little milk in the bottle then she will start spitting out the milk as well as the vitamin.

Can Babies Taste - Vitamin IngredientsWe have a prescription for the baby vitamin and thanks to our insurance we have no copay. This also means that we can only get the baby vitamin in one flavor.

There is an over-the-counter version of the prescription vitamin called Tri-Vi-Sol with the same ingredients are our prescription vitamin. The baby vitamin is just a liquid mixture of vitamins A, C, and D. Tri-Vi-Sol only comes in one flavor, but I can’t tell if it is the same flavor as the prescription vitamin. I see little reason to pay for the over-the-counter medication as opposed to getting the free prescription version.

So for now I will continue to mask the sweet flavor of the vitamin by putting one dropper-full into a full bottle of milk. As my daughter grows older I expect her taste buds to change. I’ll revisit the taste of her baby vitamin again to see if she starts to prefer the taste of sweet in the future.