Tag Archives: taste



Part of the movements of eating include chewing.  Chewing involves the opening and closing of the jaw as well as the interaction of the teeth (however many there are at the time) with the food.  Most babies instinctively put things in their mouths from a very early age, and do so increasingly as the months progress.  Often mothers instinctively take the objects quickly out of the babies mouth because it may be dirty.  However, babies must put things in their mouths to learn how to chew.  This is where they learn the action of closing the jaw and connecting the teeth with an object.  Ideally,  parents would provide baby with chewable objects that are safe and clean.  Avoid objects with small  parts that may break off, are coated in paint that may contain lead, or constructed from brittle and breakable plastic.  Look for objects that are made for babies to place in their mouths and chew on them.


Today there are many wonderful teething rings and animals made out of rubber.  Some can be placed in the freezer so the coolness calms baby’s gums when teething.  Another common item babies can chew on is a good cloth that is occasionally boiled in water to keep it clean.  Some parents tie an ice cube or a piece of apple in a square of cloth.  Another favorite idea is to give baby a frozen bagel.  Baby can also learn to be more aware of her gums by rubbing the length of her upper and lower gums with the tip of your index finger.  As she feels the gums more clearly, she will use them more easily.  When teething this can also ease some discomfort.

By remembering that baby learns to chew partly by opening and closing the jaw and sinking her teeth into something parents can support the developmental process by providing baby not only with safe objects, but also with a variety.  Baby has a different sensation when biting into a cold cloth versus a rubber teething ring or a cool apple slice versus a frozen bagel.  Let the baby chew!



We examine the sense of taste in order to understand its role in the movements of eating.  Babies, and adults, have taste buds distributed primarily over the surface of the tongue, but also on the roof of the mouth and upper throat area.  Special taste receptor cells within the taste buds are activated with the action of eating molecules of food and detect the following four “taste” categories:  sweet, salty, bitter, and sour.  There are thousands of these receptor cells within the mouth.  The sense of smell is integral to full flavor experience since it can detect many more variations, therefore the sensory experience of eating is largely an integration of smell and taste receptors.  These receptors are for one of these four taste categories, and they wait until their particular taste floats by and activates it.  The natural sugar in a biscuit may activate the “sweet” receptors while a taste of lemon triggers the “sour.”

All of these experiences are also transmitted into electrical signals which travel to the part of the brain which triggers reflexes necessary for feeding, the medulla.  These reflexes include sucking, salivation, swallowing, and tongue movements.  Signals then travel to the parts of the brain which control the motivation to eat, the amygdala and hypothalamus, and senses the pleasurable aspects of taste, the limbic cortex.  Yet another part of the brain registers the taste in our consciousness, but we will concern ourselves primarily with the parts that relate to movement.  The sense of taste is a dance of sensory experiences detected in the mouth leading to the movements of eating and pleasurable sensations which result, which are controlled and registered in the brain.


Why is “eating” listed under movement skills?  Because there are many muscles involved in the activity of eating.  Some of the actions of eating include sucking, swallowing, salivation, moving the tongue, and chewing.  Babies are born with some reflexes for these processes and other movements are learned skills.  For example, sucking is a reflex present at birth while chewing is learned slowly.  One bite at a time baby learns the skill of pushing food around with his tongue and eventually swallowing it.

There is much to learn about the process of eating and curious parents will benefit from understanding how these skills evolve and how to guide them in their development.  A series of blog posts will explore several dimensions of these movements and we welcome comments with questions for further discussion.  Let’s start the next few posts by examining some of the following questions:


  1. Which movements are reflexive and which are learned?
  2. Are all babies born with the reflexive actions, such as sucking?
  3. When do babies begin to develop the ability to eat?
  4. What is taste and when does it develop?
  5. What tastes do they prefer?

Stellar caterpillar blog will explore many of these questions and teach simple techniques to guide baby along the way to hearty eating skills.


To date, the most important book written on the subject of nutrition is this one.  Dr. Henry Bieler was a general physician who prescribed dietary changes for his patients to heal their symptoms of disease or discomfort.  Based in the science of endocrinology, this book explains how eating the foods one digests easily promotes healing and optimal health.  Dr. Bieler describes the foods that stimulate our glands and fatigue them, leading to illness, then presents his simple remedies which allow the glands to rest and heal.  The infamous “Bieler’s Soup” is discussed throughout the book.  This puree of zucchini, string beans, and Italian parsley brings the body to a more alkaline state, aids in digestion, and provides important vitamins and minerals.

Dr. Bieler wrote this book after over fifty years in practice treating movie stars, coal miners, politicians, professionals and seeing thousands of healthy babies into the world.  He guided women’s nutrition through pregnancy and usually she avoided morning sickness.  After the birth of the baby, he taught the mother how to feed her infant during the first year and minimize illness and teething pain.  He was far ahead of his time, as many books published today touch on topics he was discussing in depth back in the 1960′s.  This book is recommended for everyone.  Read it today!

Food Is Your Best Medicine:  by Henry G. Bieler, M.D.  (New York:  Random House, 1965).


Child development book "What's Going On In There" by Lise Eliot

While holding your blinking infant in your arms, watching your toddler run toward music, or observing your five-year-old remember some tiny detail from last Christmas, did you ever wonder how the infinitely complex brain, five senses, and memory of these little ones develop?  So did Lise Eliot, Ph.D., a neurobiologist and assistant professor at Chicago Medical School.  Eliot, mother of three, could not find a book that sufficiently answered her questions, so she researched and wrote one herself.  The result is a “must add to your bookshelf” reference for pre-pregnancy through age five or anyone interested in infant development.

What’s Going On in There:  How the Brain and Mind Develop in the first Five Years of Life, published in 1999, is thoroughly researched, well organized and indexed, and easy to read.  Eliot explores the development of the five senses, language, emotions, memory, and cognition.  Rather than just a treatise of scientific explanations on the development of these processes, Eliot focuses on what parents can do to raise a smarter child.  What I love most about this book (beside, of course, the content) is the organization.  When you have a thought such as “If we took our 5 month old with us to Hawaii, would he remember it?” or “What can I do to stimulate language development,” just look in the index and read the corresponding pages.  Read as much or as little as you would like, but either way, in a very short time you will have your answer.

What’s Going On in There:  How the Brain and Mind develop in the First Five Years of Life:  by Lise Eliot, Ph.D., (New York: Bantam Books, 1999).