How to Make a Smarter Baby
Every baby is born to learn. In fact, infants are like tiny sponges; they’re designed to absorb everything. Incredibly, nearly half of an infant’s brain growth occurs in the first six months of life and up to 85% in the first year. But, you needn’t wait until B-day to begin molding your baby into a genius by expounding on E=MC 2 or the theory of a space-time continuum. For your little Einstein, the development of intelligence actually begins in the womb.
Smart Eating for Two
Not only do you need adequate nutrition to keep up with the demands of pregnancy; so does your unborn child to develop and grow in the womb. Choline is one nutrient that’s receiving considerable attention from the medical community these days since evidence is mounting from animal-based trials that suggests a direct link between choline and the memory center of the brain and learning. Nerve cells convert choline into acetylcholine, a chemical messenger involved in memory and critical for the manufacture of cell membranes and cell division. In order to fulfill these functions, the fetus borrows large amounts of choline from its mother’s placenta. If there’s not enough choline available there, the fetus then resorts to the reserves stored in the mother’s liver. In fact, during pregnancy, the fetus takes so much choline away from the mother that it’s essentially concentrating choline in its body at a 14-fold-higher rate than the mother. This may explain why expecting moms sometimes endure bouts of forgetfulness, especially in weeks 20-25 when the developing baby experiences the most pre-natal brain growth. More studies on the effects of choline and human brain development will soon be underway at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Normally, one usually gets enough choline from a reasonable diet. However, with so much emphasis on consuming a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet these days, choline deficiency – especially in pregnant women – may be more prevalent than is currently realized. To make sure you’re getting enough, consider these excellent sources rich in choline: beef, fish, soy, and dairy, particularly eggs.
According to a study published in Pediatrics , DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish, also plays an important role in fetal brain development, visual function, and contributes to the rate at which the brain processes information. In the initial study, pregnant women were randomly chosen to receive 2 teaspoons per day of either cod-liver oil or corn oil, beginning in week 18 of pregnancy and continuing until three months after delivery. When the children reached four years of age, they were given a standardized intelligence test. The children whose mothers had taken cod-liver oil scored significantly higher than those whose mothers had taken corn oil.
While DHA can be manufactured in the body by utilizing a precursor molecule, alpha-linolenic acid, which is found in some vegetable oils and nuts, it’s not clear whether a developing fetus can do the same. So, it might be a good idea to discuss DHA supplementation with your doctor. While taking two teaspoons of cod-liver oil per day may be all that’s needed to ensure getting enough of this nutrient, keep in mind that cod-liver oil is also very high in vitamin A and amounts in excess of two teaspoons may lead to an increased risk of birth defects. Likewise, going right to the source, i.e. fish, can be risky too since certain kinds of fish can be high in mercury content.
Because learning and brain development is a long-term process for your child, you can greatly nurture her progress after birth at the breast. There is considerable evidence that demonstrates a link between higher intelligence and mother’s milk. One British study initially tracked pre-term infants that were breast-fed and who achieved higher developmental scores at 18 months of age than those who weren’t. However, in a follow-up study, 300 these same children were found to possess an IQ of an average of 8.3 points higher at 7.5-8 years than those who were given formula.
There are other advantages of breastfeeding that benefit both mother and child. Aside from the obvious bonding that takes place, children who are breast-fed can generally expect to experience less incidence of allergies, skin disorders, upper respiratory infections, and many other illnesses. Mom can be happy about the fact that breastfeeding promotes weight loss and the shrinking of the uterus. Besides, breast milk comes cheap and already-made-in-the-container.
What’s Black and White and Red All Over?
While you might appreciate room furnishings and clothing in traditional pastel colors of “pretty in pink” and “baby boy blue,” your baby can’t see in full color until she’s about four months old. However, there’s an emergence of black, white, and red toys on the market these days that are designed to mentally stimulate and challenge infants less than four months of age. These products – ranging from rattles to mobiles to blankets – display images against a high-contrast background that a very young baby can pick out and track.
Think peek-a-boo is just for kids? Well, you’re right. While you might delight in making baby squeal and giggle, this classic game is actually a teaching tool for young babies. It helps infants eventually learn that just because an object has gone out of sight, it hasn’t disappeared altogether.
It’s a long and miraculous journey from a single cell to a walking, talking Nobel Prize winner. But, before you know it, your baby will learn to play all sorts of games with you in reverse by hiding your car keys or making you repeatedly fetch something thrown from a high chair. Pretty smart, huh?