How To Make Your Baby Smarter
Apr. 18 2011 – 1:48 pm | 1,406 views | 0 recommendations | 1 comment
By JENNA GOUDREAU

In today’s global knowledge economy, it’s increasingly important to provide children every opportunity to get ahead. How? Jumpstart that baby brainpower from the very beginning. New research suggests there’s plenty parents can do to boost their baby’s intellectual potential from birth and even earlier.

“The best predictor of smart children is smart parents,” says New York-based pediatrician Anatoly Belilovsky, who is currently penning a book on the topic. “Parents should not trust development to intelligence-building toys or tapes.”

In Pictures: 10 Steps To Make Your Baby Smarter
We looked at the latest in brain development research and asked experts across the fields of pediatrics, psychology and neuroscience to weigh in. The verdict: To give your baby a shot at genius, here’s what the doctor ordered.

Where To Start
“What Mom eats, drinks and breathes can have a tremendous long-term impact on the child, resulting in developmental enhancements or delays,” says Kelly Huffman, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside. Research shows that the behavior of a mom-to-be may influence her child’s future smarts.

Recent science suggests that the longer the baby stays in the womb, the better. Evolutionary biologists at Durham University in the U.K. discovered a correlation between longer pregnancy periods and larger brains. “When you have a larger brain, you have more cognitive processing power,” says lead researcher Robert Barton. Furthermore, infant-health organization the March of Dimes advises against scheduling a pregnancy before 39 weeks, when the child’s brain is underdeveloped.

One recent study by the Columbia University Center for Children’s Environmental Health found that polluted air may lead to future attention problems. According to the report, when a pregnant woman inhales traffic emissions, the pollutants transfer across the placenta and bind to the baby’s DNA, potentially causing behavioral problems that could affect his education and relationships. New moms: Stick to quiet side streets or clean country air.

Play It Smart
Pediatrician Belilovsky says there are several types of intelligence that a parent can work to enhance in their young children: social, linguistic, spatial and numeric. But the most essential tool is parent interaction. Babies need motivation for flexing their intellect, he says. If left alone, they have no incentive to solve a puzzle or build a structure. When a caretaker is nearby, however, a child will be motivated to solve the puzzle in order to gain their approval. “It’s really the interaction that motivates the child,” he says.

Relying on educational television, apps or computer programs won’t work either. Studies show that there is no benefit to intelligence-building programming under the age of three, and Belilovsky calls them a waste of time. Moreover, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends zero screen time for children under age two.

In Pictures: 10 Steps To Make Your Baby Smarter

However, an unexpected teacher may be your pet. Pets have feelings and mimic the body language of people, says Belilovsky. “Children who interact with pets will learn to interpret expressions and emotions earlier than those who only play with toys.”
To increase your little one’s book smarts, read to her early and often. “Babies can hear their mother and the people around her speaking while they are still in the womb,” says Erin Boyd-Soisson, associate professor of human development and family science at Messiah College in Pennsylvania. “Reading to children very early on, even prenatally, can have an impact on their interest for reading later on.”

Clever Care
Clever caring for your baby today could make all the difference tomorrow. “The yearlong period from 12 to 24 months is a crucial period of brain development unmatched throughout childhood,” says Mark Spielmann, a pediatric dietitian at La Rabida Children’s Hospital in Chicago. “Brain growth is 75% complete by the end of the second year.”

Spielmann says omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are essential for optimal brain development, the best sources for the baby being breast milk or whole milk. “A child should not be placed on a low fat milk source during this period,” he warns. Mom may also want to up her supply of fatty acids by consuming olive or safflower oil, soy milk, avocados or coldwater fish. Moreover, the Durham University study also found a link between the duration of breastfeeding and the growth of the brain after birth, causing researcher Barton to suggest two years of breastfeeding may lead to increased cognitive functioning. The AAP recommends exclusive breast milk for the first six months of life.

Better sleep may boost that baby IQ too. According to the Academy of Sleep Medicine, good nighttime sleep—versus daytime naps—may speed an infant’s brain development and increase executive functioning, which enables skills like attentiveness, self-discipline and memorization. Studies show that the three-step bedtime routine of a warm bath, massage and quiet activity, such as a story or lullaby, improves children’s sleep (not to mention Mom’s).

Pediatrician Belilovsky further warns against comforting a child that cries in the night. “One of the greatest mistakes that parents make about child sleep is confusing comfort and entertainment,” he says. It’s natural that a baby will wake briefly in the night. When a parent comes in to comfort her, however, she will wake up entirely and then want to be entertained. “The best thing to do is leave them alone,” says Belilovsky.

Conclusion: Clever parents get better sleep and smarter children.

http://blogs.forbes.com/jennagoudreau/2011/04/18/how-to-make-your-baby-smarter/


Don’t schedule the birth.
Keep that bun in the oven as long as possible. Evolutionary biologists at Durham University in the U.K. recently discovered a correlation between longer pregnancy periods and larger brains. “When you have a larger brain, you have more cognitive processing power,” says lead researcher Robert Barton. Furthermore, infant-health organization the March of Dimes advises against scheduling a pregnancy before 39 weeks, when the child’s brain is underdeveloped.


Take iron supplements early.
New research from the University of Rochester Medical Center reports that a mom’s iron deficiency early in pregnancy may stunt the baby’s brain development. It’s estimated that one-third to half of all women experience low iron levels, making it essential for expecting women and those who hope to soon be pregnant take iron supplements regularly. Iron deficient babies develop more slowly and show language-learning problems.


Keep breastfeeding.
“There is a strong link between the duration of suckling and the growth of the brain after birth,” says Barton. Many pediatricians recommend breastfeeding or providing whole milk to your child for 12 to 24 months, when 75% of the child’s brain development will be complete. Verdict: Breastfeeding longer may result in a higher IQ.


Consume foods rich in fatty acids.
“The most important factor for optimal brain development is fat or essential fatty acids, known as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids,” says Mark Spielmann, a pediatric dietitian at La Rabida Children’s Hospital in Chicago. Studies show that these fatty acids consumed during and after pregnancy will positively impact the mother’s health and the baby’s cognitive and visual development. The best food sources are avocados, olive oil and milk.

Maintain restful nighttime sleep.
According to the Academy of Sleep Medicine, good nighttime sleep–vs. daytime naps–may speed an infant’s brain development and increase executive functioning, which enables skills like attentiveness, self-discipline and memorization. Studies show that the three-step bedtime routine of a warm bath, massage and quiet activity, such as a story or lullaby, improves children’s sleep. Additionally, New York pediatrician Anatoly Belilovsky, M.D., warns against comforting a child that cries in the night, saying the parent’s presence will disrupt the baby’s sleep further.


Get a pet.
Belilovsky says one of the best ways to improve a child’s social intelligence is to let them interact with animals. Pets have feelings and mimic the body language of people, he says. “Children who interact with pets will learn to interpret expressions and emotions earlier than those who only play with toys.”


Keep your baby away from screens.
Although it may seem like a good idea to tune in to the latest educational programming, studies show that educational TV, videogames and DVDs are not beneficial for children under 3 years old. Experts suggest speaking and reading to a child to stimulate linguistic intelligence, providing peer interaction to jump-start social intelligence, offering play places to help with spatial intelligence and counting toys to enhance numerical abilities.


Playtime should be shared.
“Intelligence-building toys really don’t work without a parent,” says Belilovsky. He says babies need motivation for flexing their intellect. If left alone, they have no incentive to solve a puzzle or build a structure. When a caretaker is nearby, however, a child will be motivated to solve the puzzle in order to gain their approval. “It’s really the interaction that motivates the child,” he says


Prevent lead exposure.
According to the Center for Disease Control, exposure to lead may “impair children’s neurodevelopment, placing them at increased risk for developmental delay, reduced IQ and behavioral problems.” Children with even slightly elevated blood-lead levels do worse on math, reading, nonverbal reasoning and short-term memory tests, reports the CDC. Pregnant and lactating women should get a blood-lead test, and parents should check toy labels, paint and soil for evidence of lead.


Stay out of traffic.
A study released in April by the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health found that pregnant women’s exposure to traffic emissions is linked to future attention problems in their children. The researchers discovered that when pollutants are inhaled by the mom-to-be, they transfer across the placenta and bind to the baby’s DNA, potentially causing behavioral problems that could affect the child’s education.

http://www.forbes.com/2011/04/18/make-your-baby-smart_slide.html

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