Exclusive breastfeeding and preference for vegetables

More exclusive breastfeeding means higher consumption of vegetables later

A very interesting longitudinal study was published in February 2011 in the prestigious journal European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Canadian scientists from the Institute of Population Health of Ottawa wanted to investigate whether there is a relationship between the duration of exclusive breastfeeding and the later consumption of vegetables in 4-year old children, regardless of the factors that are traditionally associated with the intake of vegetables by children.

A representative sample from Quebec in Canada (1549 children), born in 1998, was examined by successive interviewing of the parents (both father and mother), and completion of questionnaires about their dietary pattern and food consumption behavior.

According to the results of the study, children whose mothers held a university degree were 9 times more likely to consume two or more servings of vegetables per day at the age of 4, compared to children whose mothers had not finished high school. Furthermore, children who exclusively breastfed for three months or more were approximately two times more likely to consume two or more servings of vegetables per day, compared to children who did not breastfeed at all or did not exclusively breastfeed in the first three months.

Scientists concluded that exclusive breastfeeding for at least three months is a predictive factor for higher consumption of vegetables in preschool children.

Breast milk offers a variety to the infant taste stimuli, and its taste and consistency change depending on what the mother eats, unlike the monotonous taste of formula. This way, many studies show that infants and small children become more receptive later to taste, and prefer healthy foods, such as green vegetables. This is something that I experience every day in my practice, probably more intensely than the conclusions of the above study, which had no grading for infants who exclusively breastfed for at least 6 months, infants who breastfed for at least 12 months, and for children who continue to breastfeed after a year. In my experience, many children who belong to the above lucky groups show a strong preference for healthier foods. Many children, who have been breastfeeding for a long time, seem to love green and orange vegetables, not be interested in extremely sweet flavors, to love lemons, oranges, and, in general, sour tastes. I am certain that future studies will prove that there are even more strong correlations between breastfeeding and the child’s healthy diet in the coming years.

Finally, I should mention that, seeing this in reverse – as we should do, the fact becomes apparent, that it is not breastfeeding that is a protective factor for the correct dietary choices of our children later, but that infant nutrition with artificial milk is a risk factor for dietary difficulties and dietary developmental stagnation in preschool children, for the avoidance of vegetables and fruits, for overconsumption of dairy products, for addiction to sugar, and for taste monotony.


Source: Burnier D et al. Exclusive breastfeeding duration and later intake of vegetables in preschool children. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2011;65(2):196-202.

Stelios Papaventsis MRCPCH DCH IBCLC 2011


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