11 Tips On Boosting Your Baby's Brain Development
Written by: Co-Founder Maria Davi
Medically Reviewed by Dr. Nicole Palmer, DO
In this article
As soon as you see that positive mark on a pregnancy test, your motherly instincts kick in. Naturally, you want nothing but the best for your growing baby. You’ll probably start googling things like what to eat, what not to eat, or the best baby gear, and even begin to plan out the nursery. You don’t have to wait until they’re born to give them the best head start in life.
Every parent dreams that their baby grows up to be healthy and intelligent. Research estimates that your genes are responsible for half of your baby’s IQ. The baby’s environment influences the rest. Your diet, emotions and the uterine environment is of critical importance and often overlooked.
According to lots of scientific research, there are certain things you can start to do during pregnancy that can help boost your growing baby’s brain development. To ensure your baby’s intelligence, start following these tips we will be providing you. Don’t worry, you won’t have to alter your lifestyle radically to promote optimal brain development.
When does the baby’s brain start to develop during pregnancy?
Keep in mind that when you first visit your OBGYN, about two weeks are added on to conception date as they calculate pregnancy possibly happening any time starting from the last date of your menstrual cycle. In the following information, we are using actual conception dates.
Once the sperm and egg unite, they form a one-celled entity called a zygote. Cells start to rapidly divide and begin to implant into the uterine lining, roughly around the second week after conception.
On or about the fourth week after conception, the neural tube along your baby’s back starts to close, and the baby’s brain and spinal cord develop. The following week, your baby's brain separates into three distinct parts; the front brain, midbrain, and hindbrain. At this point, your baby has a brain of its own.
What affects brain development during pregnancy?
Nutrition is not only essential for you but also for your growing baby. Like the growth of the fetus, brain growth is affected by the quality of your diet. I guess that old saying, you are what you eat, is true!!
Infections also pose a considerable risk to the growing baby’s brain by interrupting development, including brain cells’ formation and wiring. Luckily, most women are already vaccinated (immune) to high-risk infections like rubella and varicella virus. You can best protect yourself and your growing baby by having good hygiene, washing your hands frequently, not sharing foods or drinks with anyone, and avoiding sick friends and family members.
How to improve baby brain development during pregnancy?
1. TAKE A DAILY PRENATAL MULTIVITAMIN.
Your body needs extra nutrients, vitamins, and minerals during pregnancy, which your developing baby is entirely dependent on you. That is why pregnant women are advised to take a daily prenatal vitamin. Unfortunately, most food regimens aren’t enough to provide all the essential vitamins that nurture your baby’s development and growth.
The essential vitamins and minerals your prenatal supplements should contain the following:
Folate helps form your baby's neural tube and supports the development of your baby's spine and brain development.
Choline is essential to your brain and nervous system, which is needed to regulate memory, mood, muscle control, and other functions. It is vital for your baby’s brain and spinal cord to develop correctly by aiding the formation of the neurotransmitters in your baby’s brain. It is also known to influences lifelong memory functions during the third trimester.
DHA helps your baby’s development of their brain, eyes, and nervous system. Supports the development of the cerebrum, which is responsible for thinking, remembering, and feeling. Supports the development of the cerebellum, which is responsible for all motor control, and the development of the brain stem, which is responsible for your lungs, heart, and blood pressure, keeps the body alive. It is also known to support a healthy mood and well-being in the postpartum period.
For more information on prenatal vitamins, please check out our Benefits of Feed Mom & Me Complete Prenatal with DHA Multivitamin Blog. To purchase our Prenatal Vitamins, click here! You got this mama, you and your little one are going to thrive!
2. MANAGE YOUR STRESS
Did you know stress harms your baby’s nervous system? Some studies suggest stress during pregnancy may increase the risk of congenital brain malfunctions in your developing baby.
Try to do everything you can to reduce stress in your life, like any major life changes. Lighten your workload and learn how to relax. Try some stress-reducing activities such as breathing exercises, meditation, and journaling.
3. STAY ACTIVE
Staying active and exercising mildly is good for your body physically and mentally and good for your developing baby. The endorphins released during exercising cross the placenta, showering your baby in feel-good hormones, giving them a happy uterine to develop in. Exercising increases the flow of blood in your body, which overall boosts your baby’s development.
Research suggests exercising can increase your baby’s hippocampal cells, which enforces the learning and memory part of the brain up to 40%!
4. STAY HYDRATED
Water is critical for everyone, you need it to live, that includes your developing baby. Staying hydrated can actually boost your baby’s brain development. It is also important for the production of blood, the formation of amniotic fluid, and for the excretion of toxins and waste. One of the best ways to figure out how many ounces you need to drink a day is to divide your weight in half, that’s how many ounces per day you should drink.
5. GET MORE SLEEP
Do you remember the old saying, you grow while you sleep? This is exceptionally true for your developing baby. Staying well-rested not only boosts your mood and your immune system but also increases your chance for a healthy birth. Getting the right amount of sleep aids your baby’s brain in having the time to grow properly.
6. KEEP THYROID LEVELS IN CHECK.
During pregnancy, a well-balanced Thyroid is crucial for the normal development of your baby’s brain and nervous system. According to a study presented at ENDO 2015, low or high maternal thyroid hormone levels during early pregnancy may significantly lower an infant’s IQ later in childhood.
To receive the most nutrients necessary for a healthy thyroid, maintain a balanced healthy diet, and take a prenatal multivitamin containing iodine.
7. GET A LITTLE SUNSHINE (VITAMIN D)
Vitamin D has never been so important for pregnant women. It helps your body absorb calcium and affects the viability, integrity, connectivity, and neuronal or non-neuronal functions of the developing brain.
We mainly rely on the sun upon our vitamin D intake, it can also be found in eggs and omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish. Vitamin D is also essential for supporting your baby’s development of strong bones and heart. Researchers have also started investigating a link between the deficiency of vitamin D in pregnant women and autism.
8. AVOID TOXINS
Breathing in toxins is harmful to anyone, including a pregnant woman and her developing baby. If you work in an environment high in toxins, such as a dry cleaning company, a factory, or farm, request to be moved to a less or nontoxic area of the company.
You should also limit exposure to cleaning products, avoid heavy traffic pollutants and pay attention to air quality alerts. Try not to stress when you cannot control these things. Just do your best not to expose yourself to unnecessary chemicals.
9. ELIMINATE ALCOHOL, TOBACCO, AND DRUGS
Alcohol, tobacco, and drugs interfere with the development of cognitive brain cells. Alcohol use during pregnancy can lead to fetal alcohol syndrome and often leads to lower IQ, poor cognitive skills, attention deficits, impulsive behavior, and even poor coordination. Nicotine in tobacco constricts your blood vessels, leading to a reduction of blood flow and nutrition to your developing baby impacting cognitive brain cells. Most abusive drugs cross the placenta and can affect the development of your baby’s brain. They can also have long-lasting implications for brain function and structure.
10. PLAY MUSIC, TALK, AND READ TO YOUR BABY
As you enter your second trimester, your developing baby's ears begin to stand out, and inner ear forms so they can start to hear. Your baby might not understand what you’re saying but talking, reading and even music stimulates your baby and helps with brain development. You and your partner’s voice can actually soothe and stimulate your developing baby. Try talking to your belly and see if your baby responds by moving!
Research suggests you can shape your baby’s music taste. Music triggers the release of serotonin, the happy hormone, calming and increasing your baby’s concentration. Once you welcome your baby to the world, the same music you played for them in your belly can soothe them.
11. GENTLY MASSAGE YOUR TUMMY
Did you know touch is the first sense your growing baby develops? The fetuses’ somatosensory first develops in their face, mostly on their nose and lips, by the eighth week of your pregnancy, connecting directly with their brains. By week 12, their palms, feet, and genitals touch receptors form; by week 17, their full abdomen, and week 32 every touch receptor in their body is connected to the brain through nerve cells.
Your growing baby starts to feel every touch across your belly within the second trimester. Touching your bump can actually soothe your baby and send a calming message to their nervous system. According to Time Magazine, gently rubbing your bump is a good way to stimulate your baby’s brain, boosting brain development. So, start rubbing your bump mama!