Hoping to give your baby an edge on acceptance to the Ivy League? According to experts, there’s a lot you can do to boost baby’s brainpower even before birth. The human brain begins developing between the first and second week of fetal development.
Though genetics play a role, diet, exercise and even maternal stress levels also have an impact on your baby’s brain development.
So what’s a mom-to-be to do?
“Get plenty of rest, eat nutritious foods and take care of yourself physically and mentally,” says Nancy Aaron Jones, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology and biomedical science at Florida Atlantic University, whose research identifies the contributors to optimal infant and child development. “Fetuses are totally dependent on their mom’s physical and psychological well-being,” she adds.
Here are some specific strategies to help your baby’s brain development and give him (or her!) the brightest beginnings:
- Focus on folic acid. Including lots of folic acid in your pregnancy diet is crucial to baby’s developing brain. The US Department of Health recommends that pregnant women get 400 to 800 mcg of folic acid during pregnancy. Most women can’t get enough folic acid through foods alone, so it’s essential to take a daily prenatal vitamin with at least 400 mcg of folic acid.
- Skip the swordfish. Avoid exposure to environmental toxins in your pregnancy diet, which can cause neurological damage to the developing brain. That means steer clear of fish high in mercury, such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel or tilefish.
- Fuel up on fish oil.
Omega-3 fatty acids (especially DHA) support baby’s brain development. The March of Dimes recommends that women consume at least 200 milligrams in a pregnancy diet and in a breastfeeding diet. Although foods such as low-mercury fatty fish (salmon, herring, sardines, freshwater trout or DHA-enriched foods) are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, you may want to consider taking a daily vitamin supplement that contains at least 200 mgs of DHA during pregnancy.