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How Your Baby’s Brain Develops

The human brain is the control centre of the body. During the first two years, your baby’s brain grows extremely fast and brain mass is tripled1. It is during the period from the first to the sixth months of life that brain development is the most important in your baby’s life2. Your baby is learning new things every day. Nutrition is essential to support brain development.

Brain development during pregnancy

Eating fatty saltwater fish such as salmon, herring or mackerel can have a positive influence on the development of your child’s brain. Oily saltwater fish contains a lot of omega 3 (DHA*), also referred to as fish oil, which is an essential building block for brain and nervous system. DHA is a long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid (LCPs**).

Fatty saltwater fish provides the nutrients (omega 3) necessary for the proper development of the fetal brain.

LCPs - Important nutrients

Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPs) are contained in:

  • Fatty saltwater fish
  • Vegetable oils

What are neurons?

Smell, hearing, touch: from birth your baby’s brain begins to develop the necessary communication channels to process the countless number of stimuli in the world. At birth, the majority of the baby’s neurons (around 100 billion) are already in place.

Neurons are nerve cells which are in constant communication with one another. This communication takes place via neurotransmitters — messenger substances that carry information between neurons.

In order for your baby’s cognitive abilities to develop properly, the brain’s cells must first be networked and correctly communicating with one another. LCPs are a very important building block for the development of the brain – the body’s switch board. Numerous scientific studies3 have shown that getting enough LCPs can lead to improved cognitive functioning and more highly developed motor skills.

However, your baby cannot yet produce sufficient quantities of LCPs on his or her own4. If you do not breastfeed or do not exclusively breastfeed, your baby should therefore receive LCPs through food (e.g. infant formula, fish, etc.).

Brain development during the first months

Laughing, grabbing, rolling, sitting, crawling, the first sounds and the first moments of understanding — this is a time of very high brain activity. The brain is growing rapidly and needs to get enough nutrients to support this growth. At birth, the size of the brain is about 25%1 of the size of an adult brain. By two years of age, it has tripled in size to about 75% of its final size1.

A healthy weaning diet

At around five months your baby’s interaction with the world becoming much more vivacious. At this age, they might already try rolling over onto their stomach. They can already open their hand and reach for objects that they see.

By around six months at the latest you should start to introduce pureed baby food. Usually you can begin with a few spoonfuls of carrots or pumpkin around noon. After a while you can start adding potatoes and meat. Nutritionist recommendation: occasionally replace the meat in your baby’s vegetable/potato and meat puree with oily saltwater fish. Doing this will ensure that your baby also gets enough LCPs** during the transitional phase to solid foods.

*DHA: Docosahexaenoic acid
** LCPs: Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids

  1. MacGregor J. Introduction to the anatomy and physiology of children, 1st ed. London; Routledge, 2000
  2. Early life nutrition the opportunity to influence long-term health report paper. Danone Nutricia. available at:
  3. Fleith M; Dietary PUFA for preterm and term infants: review of clinical studies; Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2005
  4. Koletzko B, Lipids in complementary foods, Pediatrics, 2000


Further Reading

This precious time is an opportunity to bond with your new baby and gives them ‘colostrum’, a miraculous superfood that you produce in the first few days after birth.

After the intensity of labour, meeting your newborn baby for the first time is an overwhelming experience. You’ll be relieved, proud, amazed and sore in equal measure.

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Important notice

By clicking on the "Continue" button, you can learn more about infant nutrition. If you choose to continue, you agree that Danone is supplying this information at your individual request for information purposes.

Breastmilk is the ideal food for infants: it is best adapted to their specific needs. A healthy and balanced diet of the mother is important for the preparation and continuation of breastfeeding. Mixed breastfeeding can interfere with breastfeeding and reduce milk production. It’s hard to reverse the choice of not breastfeeding. If an infant formula is used for a non-breastfed baby, it is important to carefully observe the instructions for preparation and use and to follow the advice of the medical profession. Incorrect use could pose a risk to the child’s health. Socio-economic implications must be considered in the use of infant formula. After 6 months, in addition to breastmilk, water is the only essential drink. Do not hesitate to consult your health care professional if you need advice on feeding your baby.