“Feed your baby well.” new moms are told when they start their babies on solids.
Yes, feeding your baby well is very important – but it is also equally important to feed your baby the right foods. Foods that contain the nutrients that your baby requires, not just to grow a big and strong body, but also to grow a well-developed brain.
Physical development is visible, but do not focus only on that. Do not choose foods with the sole objective of increasing your baby’s weight.
During the first two years of life especially, consciously choose foods that your baby requires for brain development. Because the foundation of your baby’s brain is laid during this period. And you must provide the best raw materials to build a strong foundation.
If your baby does not receive the critical nutrients required for brain development during this time, it may result in lifelong deficits in brain function.
Foods that your baby requires for brain development
Breastmilk is a rich source of all the nutrients required for brain development.
And breastfeeding helps your baby to build a good gut microbiome, which then plays a role in the production of some crucial neurotransmitters.
- Whole Grains
Whole grains provide the Carbohydrates and Vitamin B6 essential for brain development.
Start with rice and gradually introduce grains like ragi, barley, oats, maize, sorghum and buckwheat.
Serve them initially as porridge and khichdi and later as dosa, pancake, idli, bread etc. Check this link to know more about adding grains in your baby’s meals.
Check this link to try out a fun vegetable khichdi recipe!
- Dals (pulses)
Dals or pulses are a rich source of Protein. They are also a very good source of Vitamins like B6 and Minerals like Zinc which your baby requires for brain development.
Serve a variety of dals in different preparations like khichdi, cutlet and hummus in meals as well as snacks. This will give your baby the maximum number of brain-friendly nutrients every day.
- Green leafy vegetables
Green leafy vegetables are a rich source of Iron and Folate required for brain development. Check this link to know more about iron-rich foods for babies.
Serve leaves of spinach, amaranth, beet, cauliflower, keerai, mustard, parsley, radish, and turnip. You can serve them as purees or incorporated in parathas and khichdi.
- Coloured fruits and vegetables
A variety of Vitamins, Minerals, Antioxidants and Phytonutrients required for brain development are available in coloured fruits and vegetables.
Serve your baby mashed banana, stewed apple, carrot puree, pumpkin soup, mashed papaya, sweet potato mash, stewed beetroot, spinach soup. Click this link and know more about making your baby love vegetables!
- Dry fruits
Dry fruits like walnuts and almonds are a great source of all the nutrients required for brain development.
Dry fruits can easily be turned into laddoos and granola bars.
Curd is a great food to nurture your baby’s microbiome. A healthy gut microbiome is then able to produce essential neurotransmitters and other nutrients required for brain development.
- Fish and eggs
Eggs and fish are a rich source of Protein, Choline, various Fatty Acids and Vitamins required for baby brain development. Check this link to know more about giving your baby a vitamin and protein-rich diet.
Seafood is also a good source of Iodine.
- Iodized salt
Iodine is a very important mineral for brain development and the use of salt fortified with Iodine is the easiest way to ensure that your baby gets enough Iodine.
Introduce these foods gradually keeping your baby’s age in mind. Follow the 3-day weaning rule and vigilantly watch for allergies.
Happy brain building!
Dr. Debmita Dutta MBBS, MD
Dr Debmita Dutta MBBS, MD is a practicing doctor, a parenting consultant, and the founder of WPA whatparentsask.com She conducts online and offline workshops on parenting for schools and corporate organisations. She also conducts online and offline prenatal and infant care classes. She is a well-known thought-leader in parenting and an expert on play, learning and eating habits. She is the author of 7 books on parenting published by Juggernaut Books and her books are among their most read books. She is frequently quoted in national and international publications of repute for her empathetic and compassionate approach to parenting and her application of physiology and brain science to parenting.