Your baby’s brain “in the belly and on a nappy-changing table”

… or what is important for brain development in the foetal period and infancy.

Do you know that during pregnancy and breastfeeding you can positively affect the development of your baby’s brain?

How can this be achieved? In a very simple way! By starting supplementation of folic acid, DHA, iron, B vitamins and choline at this special moment for you.

DHA – the building material for a genius

Fatty acids, including DHA, were discovered in mother’s milk in 1982. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is the main component of the cerebral cortex and makes up as much as 60% of all the polyunsaturated fatty acids in the brain. It accumulates in the baby’s brain between the 26th and 40th week of pregnancy, when this organ undergoes intensive growth. After birth, the baby’s brain develops very intensively, growing rapidly to just over ½ the size of an adult’s. In this period, which is extremely important for the baby, adequate levels of DHA in mother’s milk are essential for the development of its cognitive functions and the brain.

Products rich in DHA: fish, linseed, linseed oil, soy products.

Supplementation: due to the low consumption of fish in the Polish population, it is recommended to supplement the DHA:
– 400–600 mg from the first month of pregnancy1.
– 600 mg during breastfeeding2.

Folic acid – the hero of the nervous system

To ensure an adequate level of folates, doctors and midwives recommend starting folic acid supplementation as early as three months before conception, as well as throughout pregnancy and lactation. Proper intake of folates is essential for proper growth and development of nerve cells and the brain.
Still, however, in almost every second Polish woman (according to A. Seremak-Mrozikiewicz), the enzyme that converts folic acid into its active form does not work properly. In such a situation, there is a certain risk that the concentration of folates in the body will be too low, thereby reducing the baby’s protection against neural tube defects and anomalies in the foetus. It is therefore worth considering supplementation with products, which contain not only folic acid but also its active form – the so-called active folate (in chemical terms: calcium L-methylfolate).

Products rich in folic acid: soybean, spinach, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, asparagus.


– 400 µg of folic acid and 400 µg of active folate3.


Iron – the supplier of oxygen

During pregnancy, tissues have a higher demand for oxygen. The baby’s tissues grow very fast and consume more oxygen than the maternal tissues. Iron is also responsible for bringing oxygen to the command centre of the baby’s body, i.e. the brain. It is iron that contributes to proper formation of neurotransmitters and the sheath of nerve cells (the so-called myelin), necessary for proper transmission of nerve impulses. On that basis, scientists claim that iron deficiency in pregnancy may lead to the disturbance of the baby’s cognitive processes, including concentration and memory4. Iron absorption from meat amounts to 20% and from plant products – only 5%.


Products rich in iron: mussels, octopus, buckwheat and millet, nuts, beets.

Important! Iron-rich liver is not recommended for pregnant women due to its high cholesterol content and excessive amounts of vitamin A.

Supplementation: 26–27 mg.

Group B vitamins and choline – skilful geneticists

Choline and vitamins B (especially B6 and B12) contribute to the formation of the genetic material as well as the development of the baby’s brain and nervous system. Moreover, numerous studies revealed correlations between choline intake during pregnancy and better results achieved in the tests assessing memory, concentration and spatial orientation in the children. Other studies suggest that vitamin B12 deficiencies during lactation may contribute to problems with proper cognitive and psychomotor development of the baby5. It is therefore worth taking care to proper diet and supplementation to provide the baby with optimal conditions for growth. Particular attention to the supply of vitamin B12 should be paid by women on vegetarian and vegan diets, because meat is the main source of this vitamin.

Products rich in:

– choline: egg, cauliflower, iceberg lettuce, peanuts, meat.

– B12: meat, cheese, fish, egg.

– B6: meat, bananas, potatoes, avocado, fish, pistachios, spinach.

Supplementation: choline 125 mg, B12 4 µg, B6 2.6 mg.

  1. Recommendations of the Polish Gynaecological Society, Ginekol. Pol. 2014, 85, 395–399.
  2. Position statement by the Expert Group concerning the dietary recommendations for pregnant women during lactation, Standardy Medyczne/Pediatria 2013, T:10, 265–279.
  3. Seremak-Mrozikiewicz, Significance of genetic polymorphism investigations in pregnancy complications. Arch Perinatal Med 2013; 19: 7–11.
  4. De Deungia at. al. Pediatr. Res, 2000; 48: 169 – 176.
  5. Drews, Aktywne wspomaganie szlaku folianów – epigenetyczny wpływ choliny i witaminy B12 na rozwój ciąży [Active support of the folate pathway – the epigenetic influence of choline and vitamin B12 on pregnancy development]. Ginekol. Pol. 2015, 86: 940–946.



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