Pediatrician and parenting expert Dr. Alanna Levine has partnered with Similac to share the importance of nutrition on a baby’s neurological growth, including some emerging research about a less-known but significant factor in an infant’s maturation.
The first year
The world that a baby sees when she is first born is so much different than the world she sees at her first birthday. At birth, she sees blurry shapes and contrasting colors. By six to nine months, she sees similar to how we do as adults. Her brain is also developing rapidly—in fact, it nearly triples in size during the first year. Proper nutrition is required to fuel this process, and there are specific nutrients that have been shown to play a role in infant brain and eye development.
A closer look at Lutein
Over the past few years, there’s been a lot of buzz about the importance of DHA in an infant’s diet, but many parents don’t know about another nutrient, Lutein.
Lutein is a carotenoid with antioxidant properties. Emerging science demonstrates that Lutein helps protect important cells in the eye in two ways, by protecting them against potentially damaging light and against oxidative damage. Additionally, new research from Tufts University and Abbott demonstrates—for the first time—that Lutein is also present in the infant brain in key areas associated with learning and memory.
Sources of Lutein
Because moms pass nutrients on to their babies, expecting and breastfeeding mothers alike should eat a well-balanced diet that includes foods with Lutein, like leafy green vegetables and eggs. Before infants are transitioned to solid foods, they can only get Lutein through breast milk or infant formulas supplemented with Lutein, such as Similac. When an infant is ready for solid foods, it’s a good time to introduce foods with Lutein.
Here is a list of foods that contain Lutein. (Foods listed in descending order of Lutein content.)
• Zucchini squash
• Green Beans
• Yellow squash
I see, I learn
Much of what infants learn is based on what they see. In addition to providing the right nutrients, simple activities like making faces in a mirror or playing peek-a-boo are fun ways for parents to interact with their children while stimulating their development. A combination of interacting with baby and offering good nutrition are two ways to get your baby (and her brain and eyes) off to a good start.