Most of your child’s brain development happens in those first few, glorious years. Right from the second, your little one is born until they reach a tender age of 3, her brain undergoes extraordinary changes. According to a Harvard study, more than 1 million neuron connections are formed every second during these formative years. The brain grows rapidly in the first 2 years of life, by which time it has achieved 80% of its adult weight (Reference - Urban Child Institute).
For such rapid and healthy brain development, it is important that your baby gets all the right nutrition. Luckily, breast milk happens to be that one thing which contains the right amount of nutrients to aid the growth of your baby’s brain. Let’s look at a few things that breast milk contains which make it perfect for curious, little brains:
Essential Fatty Acids:
These are the fatty acids, essential for different biological processes but the body cannot synthesize. These, therefore, need to be obtained through EFA-rich foods.
An important ingredient present in breastmilk is an omega-3 fatty acid called Docosahexaenoic acid a.ka. DHA. This DHA is required for the development of babies’ brains, eyes and nervous systems. Babies accumulate DHA in their central nervous system where it is mainly found in the outer layer of the cells of the brain and the retina (Reference - ncbi). This means that it is crucial for the development of brain tissues and vision.
Minerals are extremely important nutrients that help in proper functioning of organs and body processes.
- Iron: Iron acts as an oxygen-carrier in blood and transports it to all the cells and organs in the body. It also helps in the production of energy during some cellular processes. Lack of iron may lead to iron deficiency anaemia in babies.
- Iodine: It is extremely essential for the production of thyroid hormones. Along with controlling a few other hormones, thyroid hormones also control our metabolism. Iodine deficiency can lead to complicated health issues like Goiter, Hypothyroidism etc.
- Choline: Little-known yet highly important nutrient, Choline, helps in the development of the brain and spinal cord in babies while preventing neural tube defects. As our body cannot generate more of this element, we must intake it through foods. Choline deficiency can lead to weakened cognitive functioning or even some serious diseases.
The lactose present in breast milk is broken down into glucose and galactose by your baby’s body (Reference - International Dairy Federation). While glucose gives your little one the energy to kick around, galactose helps in brain and nerve tissue development. Although galactose is found in some foods, a baby’s only source of galactose is from breast milk.
There have been a lot of studies done on exclusively breastfed babies to determine how the nutrition present in it impacted the development of infant's brains. One such research done by Brown University studied different brain images of children under the age of 4.
It was found that babies under the age of 2 who were exclusively breastfed for at least 3 months had enhanced development in critical parts of the brain when compared to non-breastfed babies. Especially in parts of the brain which are associated with language, emotional functioning and cognition showed noticeable differences.
This goes to show just how important breast milk is for infants. It is truly wonderful that breastfeeding for the first few months could form a strong developmental foundation for many years to come.
Note- This blog has been reviewed by Tinystep Medical Advisory Board
All the information provided in the blog is for reference purposes only. Please do not consider this as a medical advice. Start Healthy Stay Healthy programme is for educational purposes only, in partnership with doctors. Always consult a doctor if you have any questions related to your own health or the health of your child.