The first 1000 days from conception to your child's second birthday are a critical window of opportunity in the child's overall development.
That's why it's crucial that you receive all the nutrients you need for your development and long-term health.
The type of feeding during this stage will be associated with their intellectual, visual and psychomotor development in subsequent years.
Your child's brain development
In the first three years of life your child will go from being a helpless newborn to a child who walks, talks and asserts his or her opinions.
These amazing changes will be brought about by different parts of your brain working together.
Your brain is made up of billions of cells called neurons, which communicate with each other by sending electrical signals.
The fatty acids in your brain help to transmit these signals more efficiently.
There are two very important processes that produce the development of the brain during the first months of life: synapse and myelinization.
Brain development occurs when synapses are formed between neurons.
Daily experiences create millions of synapses that help transmit signals that control important brain functions such as thinking, feeling, and learning.
The speed and efficiency with which these signals are transmitted is as important as the number of connections formed.
In order for your brain to function smoothly, in other words for signal transmissions to be fast and clear, neurons need myelin. Myelin is a fatty substance that serves as an insulator.
Isolating the neurons allows for rapid and clear transmission of signals. Therefore, another crucial step in the development of the brain is myelination.
In fact, 85 percent of brain growth occurs during the first three years. Never again will the brain develop so quickly.
During the first months of life the development of synapses in the cortex of the brain reaches its peak, and myelination is faster.
This is why nutrition is so important for the brain development of infants and young children.
At this stage of growth, myelination is rapid so, since fatty acids support myelination, children need a diet with a high fat content until at least 2 years of age.
Breast milk naturally contains these fatty acids, as well as iron, which is another important nutrient that contributes to cognitive development.
This is why breast milk is considered to be the best source of nutrition for children up to the age of 2.
Infant formulas also contain all these nutrients. Thanks to years of research, today's infant formulas are the closest food to breast milk and can be used by mothers who, for various reasons, cannot breastfeed their children.
What fatty acids in breast milk are necessary for children's brain development?
For many years there has been research into which of the nutrients that are present in breast milk are important for brain development.
30 years of scientific knowledge in a FAO/WHO report tell us that DHA and ARA (working together), are important for brain development and also vision.
What exactly are DHA and ARA?
DHA is the scientific abbreviation for Docosahexaenoic Acid, and ARA is the abbreviation for Arachidonic Acid.
Both DHA and ARA are fatty acids, nutrients that are considered essential for your baby's brain and eyes.
DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid that is abundant in both the brain and the retina. It makes up 97% of the omega-3 fatty acids in the brain and 93% of those in the retina.
ARA is an omega-6 fatty acid that is located throughout the body, including the brain and the retina. It accounts for 50% of the omega-6 fatty acids in the brain and 60% of those in the retina.
¿Why are the DHA and ARA duo important?
It is very important that your baby gets enough DHA and ARBs to stimulate the development of their brain, eyes, and immune system, from the womb and after birth.
DHA is a nutrient of radical importance for the cognitive development of the baby during gestation and lactation. This effect extends throughout the life cycle, particularly in cardiovascular and cognitive health.
The ARA is also critical to a child's growth and development. This fatty acid is a precursor to molecules that regulate immunity and also to molecules that regulate cells in the human body.
Pregnant and lactating mothers should consume 1.3 to 1.4g of omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA and ARA per day to meet their baby's needs.
During pregnancy, the polyunsaturated fats in some of the foods you eat provide your body with fatty acids like DHA and ARA that stimulate your baby's brain and eye development.
After birth and during the first two years of life, your brain develops rapidly and depends heavily on nutrition.
That's why many experts consider it very important for babies to take DHA and ARA at this critical time.
For years, scientific research has recognized the importance of DHA and its potential as a positive influence on brain function as well as visual development.
It also promotes proper growth and functioning of the immune system.
ARA has also been recognized as a very important part of nutrition; it promotes organ and tissue growth. It also promotes the proper development of the immune system.
Why does DHA contribute to the development of the brain?
As we discussed at the beginning, the brain matures when synapses or connections between neurons are formed so that they can transmit signals more effectively.
An important step in this process is called myelination - the coating of cells in myelin - which allows faster and clearer communication between cells.
Myelin is a substance composed of essential fatty acids such as DHA.
That's why these fats are so important in young children's diets.
What do the studies say?
On the cognitive side, numerous studies have shown that children's mental development is enhanced by DHA. A study conducted in the United States showed that children fed formulas with DHA during the first year of life have higher cognitive development at 18 months of age. Source: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
A clinical study of 343 children in the United States showed that children fed formulas with DHA exhibit improved visual acuity. Source: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
Children supplemented with DHA and ARA show positive effects on learning rules and discipline, at age 5 they have better verbal skills, and at age 6 they show better intelligence scores. Source: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
Where can children get DHA and ARA?
Your baby will get DHA and ARA in the womb.
After your birth you will get DHA and ARA from your breast milk.
Infant formulas also contain DHA and ARA to promote the brain and eye development of children at all stages of their development.
Preschool and school-aged children (4 and 18 years old) can still get DHA and ARBs from foods that contain fatty acids.
Among the main foods containing Omega 3 and 6, DHA and ARA precursors are:
Omega-3 fatty acid: Blue fish such as sardines, mackerel or salmon.
Omega-6 fatty acids: vegetable oils (corn and soybean) and some fruits.
And if necessary, since certain children and adolescents are reluctant to eat certain foods, they may be able to supplement their DHA and ARB intake through age-appropriate infant formulas.
Your role in your child's brain development.
Your role is of utmost importance in the development of your child's brain.
A child's early experiences have a great influence on the development of his or her brain. Not only does the brain need nutritious food, but it also needs stimulation to grow and mature.
This is why it is essential that you take care of your child with love, in other words, that you hold him or her, talk to him or her and play with him or her.
If your child's brain development is normal, you will see this in the development of their abilities.
At first, because your child's brain contains very little myelin, that fatty substance that coats neurons and helps them transmit signals effectively, when you ask your child to put a toy in a box it may take a while for him or her to process what you're asking and do it.
But as your brain develops, it will be able to understand and do faster what you are asking.
As a young child's brain develops, he will master new skills, such as following directions. But keep in mind that each child develops at his or her own pace.
The information presented on nutrigrow.club is not intended to provide or replace the advice of your pediatric physician or medical nutritionist.
The information presented in this post is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Full medical clearance must be obtained from a licensed physician before modifying a child's diet.
The authors assume no liability to any person or entity for any liability, loss or damage caused or alleged to be caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application or interpretation of the information presented in this post.