Early Childhood Development 101 Series: Nutrition & Brain Development

As parents, we learn something new each and every day and becoming a parent is probably one of the biggest learning curves in life. I’m not a childhood expert such as a teacher or psychologist and so I try my hardest to learn through reading and talking with other parents so I can best support Elliott’s development. I’ve always been one to enjoy learning new things and studying, so recently I decided to take up a course on Early Childhood Development. 

I’m a big believer in sharing information and so I’ve decided to share what I’ve learned in each lesson in a Early Childhood Development 101 Series. Some of you may know about it already, and some of you might find the new information quite helpful…I know in my first lesson I remember thinking ‘Ahh, so that’s the reason why ‘X’ is so important.’

The Importance of Proper Nutrition in Brain Development

Proper nutrition for brain development starts with the mother during pregnancy. What a mother eats and drinks during pregnancy not only impacts on the size of the baby when born, but the size of the baby’s brain. 

Brain development is most sensitive to the nutrition of the child from mid-gestation right through to two years old.  When  a child is deprived of proper nutrition during this stage, growth can be affected both physically and mentally, leading to behavioural problems, cognitive defects, slower language and fine motor development, lower IQ and poorer performance at school.  
Iron is one of the most critical ingredients for brain development in that its duty to carry oxygen in red blood cells is essential to stimulate brain growth.  Children who are Iron deficient can experience cognitive defects which is why this mineral is so important. As is always recommended, the best source of nutrition early in life is from breast-milk, however, it’s important that around 6 months, babies gain iron from an alternative source such as iron fortified baby cereals because the mothers iron stores will be getting quite low at this point. For those babies that are formula fed, it is essential that the formula contains sufficient levels of Iron.

In addition to the importance of Iron, children up to the age of 2 require a diet high in fat for the Myelination process which occurs in the brain. Myelination occurs rapidly in children of this age where the axons or long ‘wires’ in a brain are covered in a fatty like substance which insulates the axons, helps to transmit signals more effectively and stops cross transmission, hence the importance of breast milk, formula and after one year old, foods such as whole cow’s milk.

Stay tuned for my next Early Childhood Development 101 post on Language Skills

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Eva Lewis (The Multitasking Woman)

Eva Lewis (The Multitasking Woman)

Eva is the Editor and Owner of The Multitasking Woman. She always has her fingers in many different pies but wouldn't have it any other way. Eva is a freelance writer, a social media manager, a Mum to her six-year-old son, one-year-old daughter, six chickens and Benny the dog and wife to Mr G. They all live happily in their little worker's cottage in Ipswich, Queensland, Australia.
Eva Lewis (The Multitasking Woman)

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  1. December 19, 2013 / 8:05 pm

    Thanks for the information. My 7 month old prefers baby food over milk so the doc had us stop the second course of baby food and give more milk because of the iron.

    • December 20, 2013 / 1:50 am

      No problems Lucy. It is certainly tough with little ones and their eating, I hope it all works out with your little one. 🙂

  2. December 21, 2013 / 12:40 am

    Hi Eva. You are right that iron is important for providing oxygen to the brain, but you might be interested to know that it has other important roles as well. For instance it is a critical component of some enzymes that help us to make the energy that our brain cells use from the foods that we eat. Also, iron is essential for myelination to happen properly, because the cells that make up the myelin need lots of iron. You are definitely correct that infants need a supplemental source of iron from around 6 months, such as iron-fortified rice cereal. Iron one of the few nutrients that isn’t particularly rich in breast milk.