Nourishing your Baby's Brain

Baby Brain Food

During the first year of life, your child's brain grows rapidly.

The brain and nervous system continue to develop until about the age of three - and it's important to make sure your baby gets the nourishment he needs to develop to his fullest potential.

What your baby eats has a very profound impact in his brain development - and it is important that you, as a parent, are vigilant in ensuring that he gets enough of certain critical nutrients during his early years.

Breast milk really is best for your baby.

Breast milk has all the nutrients your baby needs - in just the right amounts. Other doctors go so far as to proclaim it as the ultimate brain food, citing studies that that show children who are breast-fed have as much as an 8-point IQ advantage compared to kids who are formula-fed.

In addition to being a great resource of vitamins, minerals, proteins, and essential fats, breast milk also supplies your child with growth factors necessary for proper development. It also has antibodies from your body which will help your baby's natural defenses against certain types of illnesses. A baby who is sick less often is better able to learn. Breast milk provides everything most babies need to build a healthy brain and grow properly for the first six to twelve months of life.

Give your child the smart kinds of fat.

Researchers found that higher levels of the fatty acids DHA and ARA help the development of the visual system in babies. These fatty acids also speed up transmission in the neurons, making for a faster brain.

DHA is an omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid that makes up fully 25 percent of the total fat found in the brain. It's not produced by the body in significant amounts, but it can be obtained through food or supplements.

Another important fatty acid for brain development is ARA (arachidonic acid.) ARA is the principal omega-6 fatty acid in the brain. Like DHA, ARA is essential for brain development and vision. It also plays an important role in immune function, blood clotting, and other important functions.

Nursing mothers should take a supplement to make sure DHA and ARA levels are high, and once you introduce whole foods into your child's diet, encourage them to eat ARA and DHA-fortified food such as whole-grain products, eggs and cereal.

Your baby's food should be pumping iron.

Iron is essential for babies to produce hemoglobin (the oxygen-carrying part of red blood cells). Too little can cause anemia, which can cause tiredness and lack of energy. Without adequate supplies of iron, your baby will form fewer neural connections, resulting in both mental and motor impairments. Deficiencies in this mineral also affect learning, memory and attention.

Be extra-vigilant about making sure that your baby's diet includes enough iron-rich food, along with the vitamin C to absorb them. After six months, a breast-fed baby should be given iron supplements in the form of ferrous sulfate or infant vitamin drops with iron. If your baby is around 4-6 months, you can add iron-enriched cereal to your baby's diet.

Iodine isn't only for cuts and grazes.

Iodine is a crucial nutrient in the synthesis of certain hormones which regulate metabolism, growth and brain development, and nursing mothers should especially be aware of their iodine intake. It's quite difficult to get enough iodine from food alone, so it's recommended that you take a daily supplement and enhance your diet with iodine-enriched food such as sea vegetables.

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