8 things to do during pregnancy for a smart baby

Want to make sure your baby is smart and healthy even before he's born? Here are eight simple ways to do that.

Curated from: Hindustan Times

1. Start a storytime habit

When does learning begin? Psychologist and parenting expert Polly Sengupta says the foundations for language begin in the womb and, by the third trimester, your baby can memorise sounds she/he hears regularly.

According to an article in parenting website Babble, researchers asked mothers to read a passage from The Cat In The Hat (a children’s book written and illustrated by Theodor Geisel under the pen name Dr Seuss and first published in 1957) repeatedly to their unborn babies. After birth, the babies recognised that passage when they heard it.

2. Eat healthy

Omega 3 fatty acids are absolutely essential for baby’s brain development. Make certain you include foods that have a good content of omega 3, such as, fish, soybeans and spinach, in your diet. Also, iron found in leafy vegetables, like spinach, helps the flow of oxygen to the baby’s brain cells.

“Include nuts such as almonds and walnuts in your diet during your pregnancy. Walnuts are essential for brain development of adults and babies alike. Almonds are a good source of niacin, protein and energy and helps in the overall brain development of the baby,” Ghosh says.

And if you want your baby to have the gourmet palate of an intellect, get adventurous at dinnertime, Ghosh suggests, as your baby’s taste buds develop from around 12 weeks. In one study, babies of mums who drank carrot juice while pregnant showed a preference for carrots once born.

3. Stay fit and active

Love the endorphin boost you get from exercise? Well, so does your baby. Staying fit and active is all the more important during pregnancy. Fight the urge to laze around and get off the couch if you want to make your baby smarter, Ghosh says.

“Hormones released during exercise cross the placenta, bathing your baby in feel-good chemicals for up to a couple of hours. Plus, as exercise increases the flow of blood around your body, including to the womb. Hence, your baby’s development is given a boost,” she says.

If you weren’t exercising before getting pregnant, stick to lightweight exercises and brisk walks, as it has been proven that mothers who are active during pregnancy have smarter children, she adds. 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%.

4. Play music and get talking

As the baby grows in her/his mother’s womb, she/he begins to hear and even respond to sound. She/he may not understand what you are saying but stimulating your baby by talking or even singing can help with her/his brain development, says Sengupta.

“You can even ask you partner to speak to your belly and feel the baby respond in return,” she says, adding, “From time to time listen to soothing music or even nursery rhymes.”

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/him to be calm and even increase concentration power. After the birth, your baby remembers and relives all those good feelings associated with the music each time she/he hears it,” Sengupta says. That means: After your baby’s born, sing the same rhymes to quieten and soothe her/him.

5. Keep thyroid levels in check

Thyroid is essential for the body. During pregnancy if your thyroid level is unstable it can affect the baby: Deficiency of thyroid in the mother can affect the intelligence quotient of the baby.

“Try to eat a well-balanced and healthy diet, which contains ample amount of sodium. Include iodised salt and yogurt in your diet in case you feel you do not get the required amount of iodine in your diet,” Ghosh says.

6. Don’t ignore the supplements

During pregnancy your body needs extra nourishment. Though a wholesome meal will provide you with ample nutrition,you must take additional supplements for the well-being of the baby and a smooth delivery.

“There are a lot of prenatal supplements available in the markets such as vitamins and supplements containing folic acid. Both of these elements play a crucial role in the development of the brain cells of the baby. However, it is necessary that you consult your doctor before taking any supplements,” Ghosh says.

7. Get a little sunshine

Never before has vitamin D been so important. All you need to do is soak some sunshine up for 20 minutes a day.

“We test the pregnant mums who come to our clinic for vitamin D, and more than half of them are deficient. That’s due to a combination of a lack of sunlight and not getting enough vitamin D in their diet.” Ghosh says.

Most of the vitamin D we rely on to grow healthy and strong bones comes from the sun, though it can also be found in a few foods like oily fish and eggs. 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.

8. Gently massage your tummy

According to a Time magazine article, rubbing your belly gently is also a good stimulation for the baby.

“A baby, still in the womb, can feel your touch. From around 20 weeks, your baby will feel you touching your bump and stroking it can send calming messages to her/his nervous system, Sengupta says.

Research suggests an unborn baby can even distinguish between her/his mother and father’s touch. Pass some almond oil: this is the best excuse for a massage ever.

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