Last fall, I went to hear John Medina speak about his book Brain Rules. That was before I found out I was pregnant. Now that we're expecting baby Nam, I wanted to read his companion book, Brain Rules for Baby. I knew my husband would appreciate his advice since he focuses on solutions that are supported with research. He gave some clear guidelines for what we can do as parents to raise a child that is well-prepared to face the world. I've included links to his website too.
Medina de-bunks a lot of myths that aren't supported by research like...
- Playing Mozart to your womb will improve their math scores - all it does is make them more familiar with Mozart
- Playing language DVDs to infants will help expand their vocabulary - they need to hear and interact with an actual person speaking the language!
- Telling your children their smart will help them gain confidence - this one's the kicker for me as I often see this as a teacher and know from experience that kids who "think" they are smart aren't always willing to work when they face a challenge, versus kids who learn early on that working hard is what brings success!
According to Medina, there are just 4 basic things, that pregnant women should focus on doing to help their baby's brain development.
1. Gain the right amount of weight: Baby's IQ is related to brain volume and thus birth weight. IQ rises with birth weight, up to 8 lbs. For women (like me), who start out a bit overweight, you only need to gain 15-25 pounds.
2. Eat the right foods: This one has been a bit of a struggle for me. 38 different nutrients are essential for neurological development. The best way to get these nutrients is to eat a balanced diet heavy on fruits and vegetables. I'm glad I've at least been making fruit smoothies, but I haven't always been good about the vegetables. Folic acid and omega-3 fatty acids are critical for brain development. To get this, women should eat at least 12 ounces of fish per week. Yikes! I don't think I've been eating that much!
3. Avoid too much stress: This means avoiding stress that is frequent, too severe, or too much (for you). A good way to meet this goal is to do what you need to to feel in control of your life and the situations you face. #4 also helps with this...
4. Exercise (moderately and regularly): The American College of Obstetrics recommends 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise per day. This will help with labor (hopefully?). Aerobic exercise will help reduce stress, which means better baby brain development. Swimming is a good 3rd trimester exercise as it won't overheat your womb (which can cause miscarriage, or affect eye or brain development). I've also found swimming to be a nice relief to my body, especially my aching feet, wrists, and back!
I have definitely not been doing all four of these things perfectly, but Medina is somewhat comforting in reminding his readers that, "Every little bit counts."