There are many "old wives tales" and beliefs that surround pregnancy -- if you're pregnant, you've undoubtedly heard several of them. One common myth is that your baby "makes" you crave certain foods. While this is untrue, there is some grain of truth to the concept that your baby might end up liking the foods you crave during pregnancy, for a variety of reasons.
There are many schools of thought on pregnancy cravings -- some experts think that they reflect nutritional deficiencies or help encourage healthy eating, while others feel they're simply the result of changing hormone levels. Regardless of the ultimate cause of pregnancy cravings, many women experience them, explain Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel in their book "What To Expect When You're Expecting." Some of the most common cravings include sweet and salty flavors, but it's not unheard of for women to crave very odd taste combinations.
Because cravings are so common during pregnancy -- and can be so powerful -- there are many myths that have arisen surrounding them. In their book "Hands Off My Belly," Dr. Shawn Tassone and Dr. Kathryn Landherr explain that, for instance, there's no truth to the common myth that sweet cravings mean you'll have a girl and sour cravings mean you'll have a boy. Similarly, there's no truth to the myth that your baby "causes" your cravings by "forcing" you to eat its favorite foods.
While your baby can't cause your cravings, it can be affected by them. This is because some of the flavoring molecules from the foods you eat cross the placenta and end up in the amniotic fluid, explain Dr. Michael Roizen and Dr. Mehmet Oz in their book "You: Having A Baby." As such, if you crave spicy food frequently, your baby will taste spice in the amniotic fluid. Because the baby will be used to that flavor, it may end up liking spice more -- and at an earlier age -- than babies who weren't exposed to spice in utero, explain Drs. Roizen and Oz.
Drs. Roizen and Oz further note that in some ways, you can program your child -- for good or for ill -- through the foods you eat frequently. If you have strong vegetable cravings and frequently expose your developing baby to some of the bitter tastes in vegetables, she is more likely to accept these flavors when she starts to eat solid food. On the other hand, exposing your baby to lots of processed food and sugar in utero may increase her own desire to seek out these tastes.
- “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”; Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel; 2008
- “Hands Off My Belly”; Shawn Tassone, M.D. and Kathryn Landherr, M.D.; 2009
- “You: Having A Baby”; Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.; 2009