Importance of Nutrition During Pregnancy: Pregnant woman and partner in the kitchen

Step into the extraordinary world of pregnancy nutrition, where each bite shapes your journey as an expecting parent and moulds the future flavour of your child's life. The foods you eat during pregnancy aren't just for you; they create the blueprint for your little one's intelligence and emotional strength. It's beyond cravings; it's laying the groundwork for a lifetime of IQ and EQ health and growth. From the secret nutrient dance in those precious nine months to the crucial symphony of nourishment in the first few years, we'll unveil how your dietary choices today echo in your child's laughter and resilience tomorrow. Join us to discover the captivating connection between nutrition and the magical tale of life.

In this article, we’ll highlight the importance of nutrition during pregnancy, post-birth, and early childhood and the long-term impact of good dietary choices. Learn more about:

Importance of Nutrition During Pregnancy: Mom, dad, and child eat fruit

From the earliest stages of conception to birth, the nutritional choices made by expectant mothers play a pivotal role in their child’s growth and development. It not only supports the physical development of the unborn child but also lays the groundwork for a lifetime of health and vitality. Thus, the importance of nutrition during pregnancy cannot be overstated. 


The Foundation for Intelligence and Emotional Resilience

According to researchers, success in work and life depends not only on intellect but also on emotional intelligence1. And because developing the child’s IQ and EQ starts in the womb, it pays to know how you can leverage the contributing factors during pregnancy. A significant element that plays a pivotal role in shaping the cognitive and emotional development of a growing child is maternal nutrition.

Research shows that what the mother eats while she’s pregnant can “programme” not only the child’s long-term health and wellbeing but also their brain development, mental performance, and behaviour.2. Studies also highlight that the importance of nutrition during pregnancy extends beyond early childhood. In fact, a better-quality maternal diet can contribute to better intelligence and executive function in mid-childhood, too3

Essential Nutritional Needs During Pregnancy

Healthcare professionals stress the vital role of nutrition in pregnancy for optimal foetal development. Research indicates that specific key nutrients play a critical role in developing the child’s IQ and EQ.

Folic acid: Taking folic acid during the first 3 months of pregnancy can reduce the likelihood of behavioural problems in early childhood.2 The recommended intake should be about 400 mcg during early pregnancy and at least 600 mcg for the second and third trimesters.4

Omega 3 fatty acid: A recent study suggests that taking a daily dose of 1,000mg of DHA - a type of omega 3 fatty acid is essential for brain development.  DHA influences immune response during pregnancy, potentially decreasing the risk of preterm birth5.

Choline: Besides enhancing the pregnancy process, choline supports brain development. The recommended intake is at least 450 mg daily6. 

In addition to prioritising nutritional needs during pregnancy, experts also underscore the following dietary recommendations7:

  • Maintain a balanced diet with vegetables, fruits, protein, and whole grains for beneficial nutrients, including calcium and zinc.

  • Fats and sweets should be kept to a minimum.

  • Consume an extra 200-300 calories daily for a healthy pregnancy.

  • Ensure an adequate intake of fluids, including water, juice, and soup. Avoid alcohol and smoking.

Steer clear of potentially harmful foods such as raw meat, undercooked seafood, and unpasteurized milk. 


The First 1,000 Days: A Lifelong Impact

Nutritional choices made during the first 1,000 days of life – from conception to the second birthday – not only impact physical health but also leave a lasting imprint on their cognitive and emotional well-being.

Pregnancy: The First Nine Months

During pregnancy, which constitutes the child’s first nine months, meeting maternal nutritional needs is essential for the health of both mother and child. Even at this early stage, the intake of key nutrients can significantly support the child’s IQ and EQ development.

Post Delivery: The First Six Months

In the first six months post-birth, the child grows rapidly.  To increase the nutritional value of breastfeeding, mothers should prioritise healthy meal selections. Protein-rich foods, especially lean meat, eggs, dairy, beans, lentils, and low-mercury seafood, are recommended. Incorporate a wide variety of whole grains, fruits, and veggies into your diet. These options can improve the quality of breast milk.14 After this, the child is gradually introduced to solid foods and eventually progresses to a family diet.

Crucial Dietary Decisions for Growth and Development

Healthy dietary decisions throughout these stages are crucial to boosting your child’s intellect and emotions. There exists a robust connection between nutrition, well-being, and learning. This emphasises the significance of thoughtful nutritional choices during these formative 1,000 days.8


MFGM: Nurturing Intelligence and Emotional Well-Being

After acknowledging the importance of nutrition during pregnancy, parents must prioritise the child’s early childhood nutrition. Remember, these stages represent a critical period during which nutrition significantly impacts your child’s development, especially their IQ and EQ.

One key nutrient is Milk Fat Globule Membrane or MFGM. It is a complex structure consisting of proteins, enzymes, and lipids that can support IQ development in children, as evidenced by the following studies:

  • Children who received formula with added MFGM had an accelerated neurodevelopmental profile at day 365 and improved language subcategories at day 545.9

  • Children who received MFGM-fortified milk through 12 months have shown improved cognitive outcomes in multiple domains at 5.5 years, including an increase of 5 IQ points.10   

Preschool kids who received milk with MFGM showed lower scores in total behavioural problems.11


Parenting with Purpose: Sustaining a Nutrient-Rich Lifestyle

As children grow, maintaining a diet rich in essential nutrients remains instrumental in supporting cognitive functions and emotional well-being. Studies have also shown that malnutrition at age three can result in lower cognitive ability at age eleven.12  Research has also identified a link between a healthier diet and lower depression and anxiety scores at age eight. 13 

Likewise, a balanced diet helps kids stay physically healthy and mentally alert, allowing them to engage in activities that foster their intellect and emotions.

Engaging in open communication about healthy food choices, involving children in meal preparation can instil lifelong habits. Cultivating a positive food environment further contributes to both intellectual and emotional resilience. When parents consistently prioritise a nutrient-rich lifestyle, they actively contribute to the holistic development of their children. This fosters a foundation for a thriving future.


A Brighter Future Through Nutrition

The journey towards a brighter future begins with the recognition of the importance of nutrition during pregnancy, postpartum, and early childhood. In the first 1,000 days of their life, it is crucial to give your child the key nutrients that not only boost their physical growth but also support their intellect and emotional health, such as choline, DHA, and MFGM.

Providing your kids with healthy and balanced nutrition is a powerful way to shape their intelligence and emotional resilience, paving the way for a future of boundless possibilities.

What should mothers keep in mind when they’re eating for two? Check out some thoughts on nutrients for your child’s healthy growth and development. 


Frequently asked questions on Nutritional Needs during Pregnancy:

  • Why is it important for mothers to meet their nutritional needs during pregnancy?

During pregnancy, nutrition is crucial as it supplies essential nutrients for the optimal growth and development of the foetus, while also supporting the mother's health. Good maternal nutrition not only prevents birth complications but also ensures the long-term health of the child, supporting their IQ and EQ development.

  • What are key nutrients that support a child’s IQ and EQ during pregnancy?

Key nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids and DHA, iodine, choline, and folic acid play a vital role in supporting a child's IQ and EQ by contributing to proper brain development.

  • How does MFGM help boost IQ and EQ?

Milk Fat Globule Membrane (MFGM) helps boost IQ by containing essential components that support brain development and emotional resilience. Studies show that providing children milk enriched with MFGM for 12 months can increase their IQ by 5 points at age 5.5.10  

  • Why are the First 1,000 Days of Life crucial to a child’s growth and development?

The First 1,000 Days of Life are crucial to a child's growth and development, as this period establishes the foundations for physical, cognitive, and emotional well-being. The choices that parents make, especially maternal and early childhood dietary decisions, contribute to the child’s intellect and emotional health.

What other nutrients can help your child grow strong and healthy in both mind and body? Join the Enfamama A+ Club community today to connect with other moms and experts. Enjoy exclusive vouchers, promotions, expert advice, free samples, and much more!


Related articles:

  1. Harmful foods to avoid during pregnancy

  2. Why Is DHA Important For Your Child?

  3. Gestational Diabetes: How To Manage It During Pregnancy

  4. 3 Ways MFGM Improves Early Childhood Development


Expert Resource:
Dr. Tan Thiam Chye
Obstetrician & Gynaecologist Specialist
O&G Women’s Medical Specialist

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