Does giving my baby the proper nutrition now have benefits beyond her physical growth and development?
Yes! Your baby’s rapid growth and development are perhaps the most obvious effect of the good nutrition you provide her with now. But there are other, more subtle—but equally important—benefits.
The fatty acid DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) found naturally in breast milk and added to DHA fortified formulas, for example, is thought to be an important component to support cognitive development. Cognition, or thinking skills, helps your child focus and learn from infancy through childhood and beyond. Your baby’s brain has been growing rapidly since the third trimester and will continue to do so through her first two years—and DHA is an important building block of the growing brain. Your baby's brain more than doubles in size the first year of life. That’s partly why the fontanelle, or soft spot on your baby’s skull, doesn’t close until 9 to 18 months of age; the cranium needs to be able to expand to accommodate this important, rapid-fire development.
Research has long shown that breast-fed babies have a slight cognitive advantage over formula-fed babies as they grow older. Researchers think that DHA might be part of the story. DHA is an important building block of a baby’s rapidly developing brain.
Feeding time itself, of course, brings added benefits that enhance cognitive development. By making eye contact with your baby during feedings, and talking or singing to her, you’re engaging her attention and strengthening the bond between you. This groundwork for healthy socialization further fuels her brainpower.
—Scott Cohen, MD, pediatrician and author of Eat, Sleep, Poop: A Common Sense Guide to Your Baby’s First Year