Understanding your baby’s nutritional needs for brain development

Understanding your baby’s nutritional needs for brain development

The speed of growth in the early years means that infants and toddlers need a nutritional programme that helps them achieve their developmental milestones.

Babies are fascinating.

We can only watch in amazement as they grow and develop right in front of us. They reach milestone after milestone in what seems like the blink of an eye.

They rapidly go from rolling over to sitting upright to crawling and then to taking their first shaky but independent step.

Metabolically speaking, all stages of growth need muscle and bone development, motoric fine tuning, brain growth and effective brain neuron networking.

While each child is unique and grows at his own pace, there is no doubt that all babies do need the right factors to enable effective development. This includes: good physical health, watchful and affectionate care-givers, an enabling learning environment, and good nutrition.

However, the speed of growth in the early years means that infants and toddlers need a nutritional programme that aids their  rapid development and helps them achieve their developmental milestones.

You can aid your baby’s development by ensuring that he receives all the important and appropriate nutrients for each stage of their development. In this article we share with you the three broad stages of a baby’s mental development from birth till he turns two, and the nutritional needs associated with each of them.

Understanding your baby’s nutritional needs for brain development

From birth to six months

From the moment he is born, till he completes six months, your baby is growing at an extremely rapid speed, both physically and mentally.

By the time he gets to the age of five months he will start attempting to roll over. This is one of the first milestones that parents look forward to. However, before he can get to this exciting milestone, the baby should be able to lift his head up stably. For this to happen, not only must he have strong neck and back muscles, but his his brain also needs to be able to co-ordinate the movement of head lifting as well as rolling over.

Important nutrients at this stage

Important nutrients that your baby will need at this age to facilitate this stage of development include protein, calcium and Vitamin D to support physical growth; and DHA for brain development and co-ordination.

smiling asian babyFrom six months to 12 months

Between the ages of 6-12 months your baby will become more active, more interactive and more fun to be around as he is able to respond and participate in so many more activities.

These six months see your baby achieve a series of milestones that requires even more physical and muscular growth and brain development than before. The milestones for this age go from sitting independently to crawling to standing and finally walking with assistance first and then taking independent steps.

Also the baby has begun to develop his motor skills which includes actions such as grasping, clutching, pinching etc.

Another major development that is taking place at this time is the beginning of learning of language. From the very basic vocal expressions such as crying or cooing, your baby will now learn to mimic the sounds that you make while playing and speaking to him.

Get ready to hear her him speak his first few words by the time he is getting to be 12 months old.

Important nutrients at this stage

To achieve these milestones associated with walking and talking, you baby's brain and muscles are in a growth spurt. Therefore, it is important for you to be able to support his brain and muscular system with the correct nutrition to achieve the milestones associated with movement and speech.

The nutrient needs at this stage include the right amounts of protein, iron, DHA, magnesium and vitamins B. Do note, that the natural iron reserve that your baby is born with, begins to deplete at around six months of age.

Do remember that six months is also the age when most babies begin on semi-solid foods and are no longer exclusively on breastmilk. At six months of age you can start your baby on fruit and vegetable purée and baby rice or other cereal mixed with your baby's usual milk.

Between seven to nine months your baby can move from purees to minced food. Protein rich foods that your child can eat now include lentils, fish, dairy and well cooked poultry.

Understanding your baby’s nutritional needs for brain development
One year to two years

Between the ages of one and two years, your child’s constantly improving ability to stand up and walk confidently and be able to express himself clearly suddenly changes his world. He becomes a little explorer.

He is curious and wants to learn more about the world around him. While he uses all his five senses to make sense of the world around him, he is highly dependent on sight at this stage.

But his vision depends on his mental development. However, colour, orientation, size, and motion are not seen with the eye, but with the brain.

It is because when light enters our eyes and strikes the retina, the neurons in the retina generate electric signals that travel via the brain stem and thalamus deep into the brain. Here, these electrical signals are interpreted, thus allowing us to get visual awareness.

Important nutrients at this stage

Your little explorer is out and about now and soaking in all information around him. His brain and body are working really hard to help him make sense of it all and their development can be aided with all the right nutrients.

In addition to iron and calcium, your toddler will also need nutrients such as taurine, which is an antioxidant that protects both the eye and brain. In addition they will also need foods that are rich in Vitamin A, Inositol, Vitamin D and DHA  to aid their vision, bone and brain development.

By making yourself aware of your child's developmental milestones and the nutritional needs that go along with each of them, you can help your child achieve them at the right age. Not only will this help the child’s physical and mental development, but will also go a long way in showing results when he becomes an adult.

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