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“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who’ll decide where to go.” ~Dr. Seuss

 

Steering ourselves in the correct direction controlling your feet is that brain in your head. The fragile organ encased in your skull, weighs only 2% of your total body weight and utilizes about 25% of the energy consumed. The human brain processing a multitude of functions; where thought, emotions, process of sight/sound/smells, and control of motor function. The brain constantly adapts and develops, however the most active period of neurologic development occurs in the first 2 years of life.

Multiple factors contribute to brain development, nutrition playing a crucial role. Key nutrients that support neurodevelopment include calories, protein, zinc, iron, choline, folate, iodine, vitamins A, D, B6, and B12, and long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids. The American Academy of Pediatrics published a great article looking into nutrition in infants and toddlers in their first 2 years of life as it relates to brain development; http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2018/01/18/peds.2017-3716

Nutritional deficiencies of both macronutrients and micronutrients in infancy and toddlers had lasting effects on brain function. Diets without adequate nutrients were associated with lower IQ scores, reduced success in school and future careers as well as behavioral problems. Unfortunately the response in supplementation isn’t instantaneous; some studies not showing a benefit until many years.

Breastfeeding contains most of these nutrients needed for brain development, but needs to supplemented with a multivitamin to provide zinc, iron and vitamin D. In addition, human milk provides immunoglobulins and helping the intestinal microbiome develop, which play a crucial role in neurodevelopment. Formula to mimic human milk has improved leaps and bounds, however formula is price restrictive and doesn’t provide the same quality nutrients for brain development as human milk.

We only get one brain and need to optimize development. Nutrition plays a critical role to grow our brains. Family physician, OB/GYN, pediatrician, nurses and midwives are available for guidance on nutrition guidance to optimize development. There are an abundance of community resources in the Boston, Massachusetts’ area:

RESOURCES

  1. -Lactation consultation:
    • http://www.ilca.org/why-ibclc/falc
    • https://kellymom.com/
    • http://www.bestforbabes.org/
  2. -WIC:
    • https://www.mass.gov/women-infants-children-wic-nutrition-program
  3. -Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly “Food Stamps”)
    • https://www.mass.gov/snap-benefits-food-stamps

Wishing you health and wellness,
Dr. Zivich

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