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Baby it's a whole new game!

April 1, 2009 - Michael Palmer
If you have been near my desk here at the office you would already know that I am a proud grandfather of a 7 month old little girl named Zoey. My youngest child is now a freshman at Mount Union College so it has been seventeen years since my wife and I have dealt with a baby in more than a occasional great aunt and uncle role. So I have been researching the new theories and developments in the care of infants.

I was especially intrigued by one article on cell development that confirmed a theory I had long suspected to be true.

The current study by a research team at Southern States University examined whether the distribution of certain specifically designed receptor cells are dispersed throughout surrounding tissue allowing sensations to perceived through peripheral nerves. In other words, the research team has determined that cells from, in this case the tongue, are initially dispersed throughout the skin surrounding the mouth. This confirms my theory that babies can indeed taste food over the surface of the skin of the face and head.

This data was computed during a resting baseline session where infants were viewed while performing the task of self feeding. Percent of anticipatory responses prior to each location in the sequence was computed. Infants were also categorized as either short or long placing of a variety of foods on the face, neck and head and the duration as either high or low on verses actual time spent sucking or chewing the food items. Analyses indicated that infants demonstrated a pattern of rubbing and placing sweet and tasty foods on these areas suggestive of tasting. In contrast, infants with sour and bland food items, allowing for an equal percentage of both correct and incorrect attempts that coordinate with their developing motor skills, were more likely to spread these items on their trays or toss them away from their feeding areas. The distribution of anticipatory responses did not vary by status or sex but diminished as the subjects aged through their second year.

If you don’t decipher medical jargon very well, what the research suggests is that when we are born our sense of taste is not restricted to our tongues, but rather we are able to taste foods using our face, head and neck. So when your baby is getting food all over themselves, it is not solely because of their lack of fine motor skills, they actually can taste the food in different places than adults. While this does not explain why my son stored leftovers in his diaper, it does make the high chair ritual of ceremonial bathing in meals more understandable.

Dr. Ahcrapt Mhadras of the Southern States University School of Public Health explained that the condition diminishes as the child ages and the stray taste cells slowly disappear until only those on the tongue remain. This migration of course can vary in duration, some children will still smear food on their faces through their early teens and in some rare cases the condition is reported to persist through adulthood.

NOTE: If you paid close attention to the date of the blog (April 1) and the name of the Dr. you may have figured out that this was an April fools column and while this is my personal theory on child development, no scientific research has been done to my knowledge to substantiate my claims. Sounds like it could be true though - right?


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