7 Key Nutrients in Baby Brain Development - milktop

7 Key Nutrients in Baby Brain Development

In 2017, the World Economic Forum Released an article that made waves in the baby industry: "The first 1,000 days of a child's life are the most important to their development - and our economic success". This aligns with health experts who believe that the first 1,000 days could make or break your child's brain development. Apart from activities that you can do with your child to strengthen those neural connections, a big part of brain development is what your baby consumes. 

At this point, you might be wondering: Oh my gosh, so what nutrients do I need to look out for in order to cultivate a healthy growing brain for my baby? Luckily, we've done the research and we're here to tell you just that. These are the 7 crucial nutrients you should look out for when formulating your baby's diet plan in the first 1,000 days. 

Foods great for brain development


For the first 6 months, babies have a stored supply of iron from their mother's blood while they were in the womb. As they develop, they need a regular intake of iron to supplement their development. 

Iron deficiencies are no joke and can lead to a risk of acute brain dysfunction, with permanent effects even after iron consumption is increased.

For mothers who are unable to breast feed, choosing a formula rich in iron should be a top priority to meet your baby's needs. Click this to see an article we did researching which pre-starter formulas contain the nutritional content best toward brain development. 

For babies on solids, iron-fortified cereals are extremely beneficial. Other foods that can be prepared for your little one are pureed meat, fish beans, lentils and dark leafy vegetables.

A common group of babies who suffer from iron deficiencies are those that started on solid foods too late. To prevent this, you can start introducing your child to solid foods at 6 months of age. If your child is late, start them on iron rich diets as soon as possible. 


Protein helps the brain to think clearly, concentrate and learn. A study conducted in 2008 found that children with chronic protein deficiency had greater difficulty with tests related to memory and learning ability. 

Foods rich in protein that you can incorporate into your baby's diet are fish, eggs, poultry, meat, beans and soy products. 


Zinc is both an essential component in growth and development of your baby's brain and functionality of his/her immune system. Zinc deficiency has been linked to learning disabilities, impaired memory and a poor attention span.

Zinc is an important component in milk formula.

If your baby is on solid foods, give him/her tofu, fish, red meat and dairy products, for their daily recommended dose of zinc.

Folic Acid

Folic acid is really interesting because actually helps form the neural tube during pregnancy. Most pregnant women take it as a supplement to protect the foetus against birth defects of the baby's brain (anencephaly) and spine (spina bifida), surprisingly it has also been linked to healthy brain development throughout childhood. Folic acid helps with your baby's brain formation and development. 

For young babies unable to eat solid food yet, choosing the right milk formula with an adequate amount of folic acid is vital. 

Foods rich in folic acid include spinach, brussels sprouts and asparagus. They can also be found in fruits, nuts, beans and fortified cereals and breads.

Vitamin D

Commonly known as the 'sunshin vitamin', our bodies naturally product it when we are expose to UV rays in sunlight. While it is often associated with bone density and strength, it is also another important component for brain development and mental function, aiding in memory and learning. 

They are also present in milk formula and should be considered before you decide on a brand. 

Foods such as fatty fish (salmon, tuna etc) are good sources and some products such as milk are fortified with it. If your child is low on vitamin D, it's possible to give them a supplement but check with your doctor first.


When brain development comes to mind, DHA is one of the first things that come to mind. Fish has long been the DeFacto for "brain food" especially when it comes to children. This is because of its high omega-3 fatty acid content. Algae is also a great source of DHA and is actually where the fish gets its omega-3 from (when it eats the algae). DHA helps brain cells to communicate with each other and may also influence the brain's neurotransmitters. 

Fatty fishes such as mackerel, salmon, sardines and tuna are rich in DHA.


Sphingomyelin, a type of fat found in animal cells, supports your child's cognitive development. Higher doses of sphingomyelin in a child’s diet has been found to lead to positive changes in verbal development during their first two years of life. It also aids children's mental performance, heightening memory and intelligence.

It’s not a rare nutrient by any means – your baby will get their dose of sphingomyelin through milk and dairy products. You may need to seek out this ingredient when reading labels, as not all formula milk products contain sphingomyelin.

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