Eating to boost the brainpower of your baby
Find out the 5 ways that your diet can influence your baby's intelligence.
baby brain power

Do you think your child's intelligence comes down to the genes you pass on, mixed with how early they start their education? Well according to researchers in the early-life nutritional programming arena, your baby's brain is being influenced by something much more simple, and a lot earlier than that. In fact, your diet from the moment you conceive could be influencing the brain power of your little genius. Want to find out the best ways to raise the next Einstein? Find out tips below, as well as this great instructional video from our sister site Kidspot Australia:

1. Hit the iodine

The brain and nervous system of unborn children is vastly affected by iodine, with an iodine deficiency often resulting in reduced IQ. These results can be irreversible, but easy enough to avoid in the first place by simply taking iodine supplements from the moment you plan pregnancy and through till you finish breastfeeding. So as soon as you find out your pregnant, make sure you stock up on the iodine.

2. Don't skimp

Dieting should definitely be avoided during pregnancy; adequate nutrition for pregnant women is vital for normal brain development of infants. While eating for two is outdated thinking, make sure you are eating well for one, and talk to your GP if you are not sure how much is enough. Your diet should consist of lean meats, fruit and vegetables, eggs, whole grains, legumes, dairy products and water.

3. Eat fatty acids

Brain growth during the last trimester and first two years of life is very significant, with the brain growing approximately 260 percent in the final trimester. It continues to grow 175 percent during the first year of life and another 18 percent during the second year. DHA neural tissue accumulation is also going strong at this point, so essential fatty acids are a MUST to give this brain growth extra support. Supplementation is an option (though, read your labels – not all supplements are made the same), or you can consume it by eating low mercury oily fish like salmon, tuna or sardines three times a week. By the way - the brain doesn't stop growing after this age, but it only grows another 21 percent from the age of two until adulthood!

4. Stay up to date with iron

Iron is vital for brain development, and deficiencies often develop during pregnancy and periods of rapid growth. Supplementation (in conjunction with your GP) is one way to keep your levels up during pregnancy, or you can consume it – red meat being the optimal source. The recommended dietary intake (per day) of iron for pregnant women is 27mg, and 9mg for lactating women (10mg for 14 to 18-year-old adolescents who are breastfeeding).

5. Give breastfeeding a go

We’ve all heard breast is best, and that’s particularly true when it comes to brain development. Researchers from Boston Children’s Hospital found the longer the mothers breastfed, the more likely their children were to score higher on vocabulary tests at age three and on intelligence tests at age seven. While not everyone has an easy or successful experience with breastfeeding, seeking help early can assist enormously if you are experiencing difficulty. Any amount of breastfeeding is beneficial, so give it your best try and keep going as long as you can.

What advice have you been given on early life nutrition?

This article was written by Melanie Hearse for Kidpsot, New Zealand's favourite parenting resource for Early Life Nutrition.
Breastfeeding is best for babies and provides many benefits. Combined breast and bottle feeding in the first weeks of life may reduce the supply of your own breast milk. Always consult your doctor, midwife or health care professional for advice about feeding your baby. This post is part of the Early Life Nutrition story.

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