From the very beginning of your baby’s life, it is your job to give her the opportunity to grow and develop into the best version of herself that she can be. The biggest way you can do that in the early stages of your baby’s life is aiding in baby brain development. The first three years of a child’s life are the most critical for brain development because 80% of brain growth happens at this age. That’s huge!
It is incredible how much a baby will learn in such a short period of time! Because of this, there is no time to wait when trying to build your baby’s brain.
You can boost your baby’s brain development in a number of ways including holding, hugging, talking, singing, and what we are going to talk about today- feeding your baby to boost brain development.
Baby brain development doesn’t happen all at once. There are three major opportunities for you to boost your baby’s brain using food.
If you’re wondering how you can give your baby the best chance at a healthy brain and you’re looking for ways that you can use food to nourish their development, keep reading because I have put together an easy to follow timeline of the ways you can feed your baby for optimal brain health.
Remember, always check with your doctor and pediatrician before modifying your diet or introducing new foods to your little one.
Three Stages of Feeding A Baby For Healthy Brain Development
In order to positively impact your baby’s capacity to learn and develop their memory, try these foods during the three stages of feeding a baby.
1. Nurturing Your Baby’s Brain During Pregnancy
When you conceive, your baby’s brain begins to grow even before many women know that they are pregnant – just three weeks after conception. Incredible, isn’t it?
Nurturing your pregnancy is the first stage of feeding that offers you an opportunity to provide your baby with the brain foods that they need to grow. As you grow your tiny human in your belly, you are also growing their big brain! Eat these foods to get the nutrition you need to build a healthy brain and give your baby the best chance before she’s even born.
Low in harmful mercury and rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA that is essential to cognitive development, Salmon is the best of both worlds. One to two servings of salmon a week can give you the DHA that you need to help the baby’s central nervous system mature. If you don’t eat fish, look into taking a fish-oil supplement instead.
Tomatoes are full of antioxidants that protect baby’s brain tissue from damage. Add them to a fresh salad full of leafy greens, and clean veggies and fruits to get a fork full of the antioxidants your baby’s brain needs.
Beans and Lentils
You need significantly more protein when you are pregnant than you do in day to day life. Proteins form the building blocks of every cell in your body- including the brain! The protein that you find in beans and lentils are required to build brain cells. Grow, baby, grow!
We have all been lectured about the folate requirements during pregnancy, haven’t we? It’s because folate is required for the production of new DNA and the prevention of neural tube defects. Folate is naturally occurring in raw spinach. Add a handful of spinach into your breakfast in the morning to boost your baby’s brain development the beginning of each day.
Many women are iron deficient before they even get pregnant and then continue that deficiency throughout their pregnancy. Iron is required for red blood cells to carry oxygen to the tissues of the body – including your babies! A lack of iron will mean a lack of oxygen which can lead to poor brain growth. Eating lean beef will help you get all the iron you and your baby need and ensure adequate brain growth.
Pumpkin seeds are a great way to work zinc into your diet. Zinc helps to build brain structure. Roast them for a tasty snack to keep in your bag when you’re on the go!
Don’t Forget Your Prenatal Vitamin
Even if you are diligent in making sure you have a balanced and nutritious diet in pregnancy, most women don’t get enough folic acid from foods alone. Taking your prenatal vitamin is important for your baby’s development.
2. Grow Your Baby’s Brain With Liquid Gold
Breast Milk Is The Ultimate Brain Food
For the first 6 to 12 months of your baby’s life, breast milk is the single most perfect source of vitamins, minerals, proteins, and fats that baby needs in perfect proportion for growth and brain development. But unlike other sources of nutrition, breast milk also provides your baby with antibodies from your own body which will be transferred to your baby and become a natural defense against illness.
The best part is, the benefits of breastfeeding that affect your babies brain development continue to increase over time. The longer you breastfeed, the more positive effects for your baby’s brain.
While breastfeeding, make sure your diet is full of brain foods for baby so that your breastmilk is as packed full of important nutrients as possible.
3. Feeding Baby-Brain-Food In Solid Form
If the time has come that your baby is ready to enter the world of solid foods, it can be scary and confusing. Remember to be patient with your baby as she starts to try new foods. She won’t always be fond of everything right away, but the more variety you introduce, the better she will adapt to different flavors.
After breast milk, the ideal diet for your baby is one that contains a wide variety of foods including proteins, fruits, and veggies to make sure they are getting all of their brain-boosting nutrients they need.
DHA and other omega 3s speed up transmission between neurons and make for a faster brain. These nutrients can be found in whole milk. Do you know where else you can find them? They make up 25% of the total fat your baby’s brain!
Don’t skimp on the fat intake for baby. Instead, make sure you are feeding her breast milk or whole milk until her second birthday to be sure your baby is getting enough fat that is important for her developing brain. 60% of the brain is fat and it has to come from somewhere!
One of the very first foods that you can introduce to baby after breast mil, is yogurt. When choosing yogurt for your baby, steer clear of the yogurts marketed for kids that are flavored and full of sugar. Instead, grab unflavored greek yogurt to give your baby the Vitamin B Complex vitamins that are necessary for the growth of brain tissue and neurotransmitters.
Greek yogurt offers a probiotic benefit to baby too. There have been studies that suggested that there is a connection between our gut and our brain. This means, that if you nurture your baby’s gut by giving it a strong intestinal microbiome, you are also nurturing your baby’s brain at the same time.
Healthy fats help build baby’s brain cells. Avocados, packed full of unsaturated fats that help promote blood flow to the brain, are a superfood for baby that you can introduce as your baby starts to take solids.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away! Or, for the purpose of this post, an apple a day makes for a smart baby! Really, though, apples contain quercetin, which stimulates your baby’s brain activity.
As you start introducing solids, make sure you introduce one at a time. Especially if your handling high allergy-prone foods like eggs. Don’t let that scare you though, because feeding your baby eggs will give her the omega 3 fatty acids, Vitamin D, zinc, and choline that promote enhanced concentration and memory.
Opt for oatmeal instead of rice cereal for your babies first food and give her the Vitamin E, Zinc, and B-complex vitamins that she needs to reach her memory potential. Look for the oatmeal that is whole grain and infused with iron.
Berries are often a baby’s favorite food. Lucky for them, berries are high in vitamin C which can prevent oxidative stress in the brain.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends introducing meat including red meat and poultry to your baby because it is the best source of iron for your baby. The Iron is critical for the processing speed in the brain.
Baby Brain Development Starts In The Kitchen
As a mom, I know that you are always thinking about what you can do for your new baby to help them reach their maximum potential. In pregnancy you do everything you can to be healthy, go to all of your check-ups, and research all-the-things to make sure you don’t make any wrong moves that might harm your growing, sweet, little baby. In childbirth and child-rearing, it’s no different. Moms are always searching for ways to benefit our children. Well, the first step is feeding their brains.
There are many things that your baby needs in order to grow into a smart and successful adult such as, attention, love, and play time, but food is so important from day one.
Don’t miss the opportunity to develop your baby’s brain during this short yet important time in baby brain development. These years cannot be made up later. Take this list of foods as a guideline that can positively impact your baby’s brain development and make sure you and your baby are getting nutrients from a variety of sources.
You are on your way to a great start now that you’ve read this list. Good job, mama!
Hey! I’m Heather over at A Life In Labor. I am a wife, mother, and labor and delivery nurse who found her passion in writing about the labors of new motherhood. Subscribe now to get my FREE Ultimate New Baby Checklist to help prepare you for new motherhood. Find me on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest to follow along!