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From cuttlefish learning to recognise prey before they hatch, to birds memorising "passwords" in the egg to form a bond with their parents, it is clear that schooling begins before birth Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Babies Start Learning Before They are Even Born

  • By Lesley Evans Ogden

5 July 2016

While pregnant with my first child, I heard unsolicited advice typical of that showered upon expectant mothers.

"Don't eat spicy food," and, "Avoid garlic, especially when you're breast-feeding." But as a spicy food-lover I was sceptical, and reluctant to take heed. Human cuisines vary all over the world. Surely babies born to mothers in some of the world's spice capitals must learn to get used to breast milk with more flavoursome notes?

It was pure speculation on my part, but my personal experiment – played out with an unscientific sample size of just one – offered some support. My tiny experimental subject expressed his prenatally-learned love for Thai curry and garlic-spiced breast milk by way of contented guzzling, then guzzling some more.

Some more rigorous scientific research also supports the idea that babies learn taste preferences before they are born. In fact, prenatal learning is not limited to taste. Nor is it limited to humans. What is emerging from the experiments is evidence that all sorts of animal species great and small learn about the world before entering it by paying attention to the tastes, smells, sounds – and even sights – available pre-birth.

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