Call Mensa. You’re building a super brain and we’ve got the best tricks for creating a smarter, happier baby
Your diet, emotions and how you interact with your bump all play a part in developing your growing baby’s brain.
‘Inherited genes play a major role in determining intelligence and personality, but the right lifestyle choices can help ensure those genes are programmed in the womb,’ says Dr Lana Asprey, co-author of The Better Baby Book. ‘Researchers now estimate that only 50 per cent of IQ is down to genes – the rest is influenced by a baby’s environment.’
What are you waiting for? Make sure your baby inherits your braininess, now.
1. Start a storytime habit
The foundations for language begin in the womb and, by the third trimester, your baby can memorise sounds she hears regularly.
‘US researchers asked mothers to read The Cat In The Hat repeatedly to their unborn babies. After the birth, the babies “chose” the recording of their mum reading the story by sucking at a particular speed to trigger the recording,’ says parenting expert Dr Miriam Stoppard.
2. Stay active
Love the endorphin boost you get from exercise? Well, so does your baby. Hormones released during exercise cross the placenta, bathing your baby in feel-good chemicals for up to eight hours. Plus, as exercise increases the flow of blood around your body, including to the womb, your baby’s development is given a boost.
The latest research also suggests exercise during pregnancy can increase neurons in your baby’s hippocampus – the learning and memory part of the brain – by 40 per cent.
3. Get a little sunshine
Never before has the sunshine vit, Vitamin D, been so important. And you just need to soak it up for 20 minutes a day. ‘We test all the pregnant mums who come to our clinic for vitamin D, and 70 per cent are deficient,’ says fertility expert Zita West. ‘That’s due to a combination of a lack of sunlight and not getting enough vitamin D in their diet.’
This nutrient is essential for helping your baby develop strong bones and heart, and researchers have also started investigating a link between a lack of vitamin D in pregnant women and autism.
4. Massage time
From around 20 weeks, your baby will feel you touching your bump and stroking it can send calming messages to her nervous system. Research suggests an unborn baby can even distinguish between her mother and father’s touch. Pass the almond oil. This is the best excuse for a massage ever.
5. Get talking
Next time someone looks at you funny for talking to yourself, just give them daggers. You are, in fact, educating your baby-to-be. ‘Babies can hear from 16 weeks and, by 27 weeks, all the connections from ear to brain are in place,’ says Miriam.
Studies show newborns respond to accents or languages they hear in the womb – those born to bilingual families respond to both languages from birth.
6. Vary your diet
If you want your baby to have the gourmet palate of an intellect, get adventurous at dinnertime. Your baby’s taste buds develop from around 12 weeks.
By 25 weeks, she’ll be absorbing around two litres of amniotic fluid a day and the foods you eat can flavour it. In one study, babies of mums who drank carrot juice while pregnant showed a preference for carrots when weaned.
7. Play music
Perhaps the most important education of all – you can shape your baby’s music taste. ‘Unborn babies love music – it helps trigger happy chemicals, like serotonin, which encourage her to be calm and contented,’ says Miriam. ‘After the birth, your baby remembers and relives all those good feelings associated with the music each time she hears it.’
8. Sing nursery rhymes
Yep, you can get into this habit now. ‘We know unborn babies can pick up the rise and fall and cadences in speech,’ says Miriam. ‘You can help your baby tune in by singing rhythmic songs – nursery rhymes are ideal.’
After your baby’s born, sing the same rhymes to quieten and soothe her.