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Brain development
7 Minutes

How to: 15 positive science-backed ways to help brain development

We know that issues around neurodevelopment are on the rise. As always, there is rarely a ‘single’ reason why. More a combination of factors. So, we turn to the latest research to look at the positive ways science suggests we can help brain development in a little person.

Brain development

We know the most rapid period of brain development is from conception to around the age of two. This is the time to do all you can to help your baby’s brain development as best it can. We have outlined a brief ‘how to’ collection of positive things you can do. Backed by the latest science and research. We have also included links to much more of the science and detail if you want to get really geeky!

Some of the ‘good guys’ for brain development:

Starting with DHA: 

By now you probably know the power of Omega 3s for brain development. Specifically DHA. Click here for all the detail. However, the main point is that DHA is a structural constituent of the central nervous system.

So we need enough!

Is there a time that DHA is particularly powerful?

It is something that is important to have throughout your pregnancy as it is also a powerful anti-inflammatory. Click here as to why chronic inflammation is not what you want. However, what we know is that it starts to build rapidly in a baby during the last trimester and continues at very high rates up to the end of the second year of life. This happens partly through breastfeeding Click here for more detail. 

How much do we need?

You can find DHA in oily fatty fish (remember to go low down the food chain). One/two portions provide a decent amount per week. However, as with all supplements – ALWAYS speak to your doctor first. Research suggests 500-800mg/day is reasonable. Click here for things to remember about taking any supplement.

Good gut health and brain development:

Our obsession continues! However, the science is pointing to having a healthy gut during pregnancy as important. Click here for more. It also suggests that having a solid foundation for a baby in the earliest days will stand them in great stead. Particularly when it comes to a developing brain. For the quick ‘how to’ approach this. Click here. 

Music, touch and brain development: 

Turns out there is a physical reason why you are unlikely to be able to keep your hands off your little one in the earliest days. Research in premature babies has shown real benefit in terms of brain development from the power of touch and closeness. Science is telling us that you cannot spoil a baby with too many cuddles! It has also shown fascinating results when it comes to the power of music. Crucially fMRI scans have shown differences between the crucial networks and connections within the brain. Pretty cool stuff. Click here for more/how to do it. 

Iodine: Why having enough is crucial for brain development: 

Iodine plays a huge role in Thyroid function. The thyroid uses it to make T3 and T4. Studies also show that both of these begin to rise from mid pregnancy with a sudden release at birth. This appears to play a role in helping the baby adapt to the outside world. Having enough is crucial to brain development. It is tricky to get enough from food, however; sea vegetables, cranberries, plain yogurt, strawberries, potato, seafood, eggs, green peas, cheese and bananas are good sources. We also now have Iodised salt. If you are concerned about your levels and your thyroid speak to your doctor. It is important. For signs your thyroid may be an issue/more on Iodine Click here . 

Invest in a good water filter: 

Really?! Well yes. Turns out that in certain areas there are things in our water systems that little brains don’t want too much of. As always, it is not small amounts here and there that do harm. It’s just making sure we don’t get too much/minimising where we can. The World Health Organisation has identified areas within at least 50 countries where Inorganic Arsenic is at a level that could potentially be harmful. A simple Brita Filter can reduce the amount by between 40-70% which is a great start. Click here for much more. The second element is Fluoride. Some areas add it to the water supply. However, there is evidence to suggest that this is not good for developing brains. Click here for more/the science.  Your local authority will be able to tell you if it is added to your water supply.

Chlorella: a brain super food?

This grass green Algae has shown very real, science-backed benefit when it comes to helping remove toxins from the body. It is not a supplement and can be eaten anytime. It is also really high in protein and other phytonutrients. Click here for much more on this true super food. 

Things a developing brain should avoid:

We know that you’re fed up of all the ‘scary’ toxic things in the world. It often feels exhausting and overwhelming. However, we have distilled down the latest research on what could make a difference and most crucially what you can do to avoid. In an easy and manageable way!

Paracetamol: should we seek an alternative?

Research continues to grow about the potentially damaging effect of Paracetamol/Acetaminophen use in pregnancy and for small people post birth. During pregnancy it is best to avoid completely. Particularly as there are new studies emerging. Click here for more.  Once your child is above three months old, research suggests that it may be better to use an Ibuprofen based pain killer from the perspective of brain development. Click here to dig in to more on this. 

Manganese: all about ‘Goldilocks’: 

As with most things. It’s about moderation. Manganese is something the body needs in a small amount. We just don’t want too much. This can be found in air pollution, water (once again reach for the filter) and even baby formula. Things like a HEPA air purifier if you live near a busy road are good to have. Water filters also help. Finally just check your formula to see the amounts. Soy formulas tend to have the most. We found that HIPP Organic had the least.

Methylmercury: an avoid for a developing brain: 

It is pretty well known by now that too much big fish can give us too much mercury exposure. Click here for more.  Pretty simple how to avoid too much of this. Limit fish intake to 2-3 times per week. Go low down the food chain. Smaller fish is best. This is ideal for conception, pregnancy, breastfeeding and for small people.

Plastics: not just bad for the environment…

Plastic – or specifically BPA is not good for anyone. It is especially not good for brain development. Click here for much more..  The good news is that baby products are now generally BPA free. Another simple solution use glass, paper bags and particularly avoid heating plastic. Click here for a quick and easy guide to avoid it. 

What to watch for in your/your baby’s beauty cabinet: 

This one is easy. Avoid added fragrance. Simply going fragrance free minimises the chances of Phthalates being present. Click here for why these are not what you want exposure to.  

Toluene is another: commonly found in nail polish and remover. Go without or make sure your brand is Toluene free.

Our old favourites pesticides/herbicides and brain development: 

Glyphosate and Clorpyrifos are two specific types where compelling evidence exists to show the potential damage to a growing brain. Click here to read much more detail. Obviously going organic where possible is helpful. However, click here for a couple of other easy ways. 

Dry Cleaning?!

Trichlorethylene is the ingredient to watch out for if you’re pregnant. Just reduce where you can and avoid dry cleaning any products that your baby is exposed to.

Flame retardants: 

We know that Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers aka. Found in certain flame retardants are a big avoid. Simply check labels, particularly when buying anything for your baby or if you’re pregnant. Dust and vacuum regularly in your home also helps keep this ‘dust’ at bay.

Bottom line: Things we like for brain development: 

  • A good water filter
  • Omega-3 (specifically more DHA)
  • Focus on good gut health during pregnancy/for your baby
  • Music and lots of cuddles for your baby
  • Iodine/being on top of Thyroid health
  • Chlorella
  • Avoiding BPA/Plastics
  • Fragrance free cosmetics/personal care
  • Go low down the food chain when it comes to fish
  • Say no to dry cleaning your baby’s products/flame retardants
  • Go organic/use EWG’s clean fifteen/dirty dozen list/Activated Charcoal to wash non-organic produce
  • Avoid paracetamol whenever you possibly can during pregnancy or for a small growing person. Ibuprofen +3mnths old.
  • If you live near a busy road invest in a HEPA air filter.


This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. The information on this website has been developed following years of personal research and from referenced and sourced medical research. Before making any changes we strongly recommend you consult a healthcare professional before you begin.

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