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