3 Simple Ways to Foster Your Baby’s Brain Development

Woman holds baby over head

During the first three years of life, your baby’s brain makes over one million neural connections per second. That’s a lot of brain development! The quality of a baby’s environment (including your connection with them) in those early years is critical to a baby’s growth and offers parents a wide window of influence. 

There are things you can do to nurture your baby’s mind and even ways to set them up for success while they’re still in utero. To help you do just that, we teamed up with the experts at Healthybaby, a brand pioneering brain-safe, development-led baby products. Ahead, you can read their easy tips for supporting your little one’s developmental health during pregnancy and beyond.  

1. Prioritize Your Prenatal Health

Your body is your baby’s first environment, and it has a significant influence on their developing brain and body. So whether you’re trying to conceive, are pregnant, or are in postpartum, your healthcare team may recommend that you eat a balanced, nutrient-dense diet and take a prenatal supplement for extra support. In theory, doing both of these things should provide your baby with the nutrients needed to aid their brain development and long-term health. That said, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has never published a standard for prenatal nutrition and does not regulate supplements. So not all prenatal supplements provide what some doctors and researchers feel are adequate amounts of essential nutrients.

With this in mind, Healthybaby set out to make a comprehensive prenatal. In partnership with the Neurological Health Foundation (NHF), their consultant James Adams, Ph.D., distilled the insights from over 350 studies. Then Dr. Adams established evidence-based recommendations for the optimal level of each vitamin and mineral. Healthybaby’s supplements meet these levels and are tailored to each trimester, so you and your baby get the optimal amount of nutrients during each stage of development.

2. Reduce Exposure to Chemicals

Exposure to chemicals and neurotoxins (like lead, mercury, and arsenic) can impact your little one’s brain development. Some exposure to chemicals is inevitable — whether from air pollution or mass food production. But there are small steps you can take to reduce your exposure right away. 

If you aren’t already, consider using a filter for your drinking water. Not only will it make your water taste better, but it will also remove many harmful contaminants from your local water supply. (If you’re curious about the cleanliness of your local tap water, check out the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Tap Water Database.) 

Woman holds baby

You can also swap out your little one’s diaper. Several studies have found that many disposable diapers contain toxins that may be risky for children's health and brain development. If this concerns you, look for options free of harmful chemicals like the Healthybaby diaper. It’s the first EWG VERIFIED™ diaper and is free of 4,400+ toxic chemicals and materials found in certain diapers, household products, and the environment. (Think: parabens, chlorine, and phthalates.)

3. Create a Routine

Routines help babies learn new information and strengthen their brain connections. That’s why babies feel safest exploring new things from the comfort of a routine, says Healthybaby’s developmental pediatrician Stephen Cowan, M.D. This helps babies understand their world and allows their brains to be open to learning. 

From diaper changes and baths to meals, naps, and bedtime — the day is full of opportunities to create routines — and they don’t have to be long or elaborate. It can be as simple as a song you always play before bedtime or a scent you always use during bathtime. The key is to make your routine consistent.  

The Bottom Line

You can do lots of little things to support your baby’s development, but try not to stress too much about it. By showing your baby love and support, you’re giving them the foundation they need to grow and learn at their own pace. Development is not a race, so try not to fixate on milestones and benchmarks. 

Most importantly, never forget that there is no one right way to parent. Always do what you feel is the right fit for you and your family.

10 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. The Center on the Developing Child. From best practices to breakthrough impacts.

  2. Food and Drug Administration Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. Frequently asked questions about medical foods; second edition guidance for industry.

  3. Adams JB, Sorenson JC, Pollard EL, et al. Evidence-based recommendations for an optimal prenatal supplement for women in the U.S., part two: minerals. Nutrients. 2021;13(6): 1849. doi:10.3390/nu13061849

  4. Grandjean P, Landrigan P. Neurobehavioural effects of developmental toxicity. Lancet Neurol. 2014;13(3). doi:10.1016/S1474-4422(13)70278-3

  5. Chiu Y, Williams P, Mínguez-Alarcón L. Comparison of questionnaire-based estimation of pesticide residue intake from fruits and vegetables with urinary concentrations of pesticide biomarkers. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2017;28(1):31-39. doi:10.1038/jes.2017.22

  6. American Lung Association. State of the air 2022.

  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Choosing home water filters and other water treatment systems.

  8. Makoś-Chełstowska P, Kurowska-Susdorf A, Płotka-Wasylka J. Environmental problems and health risks with disposable baby diapers: Monitoring of toxic compounds by application of analytical techniques and need of education. TrAC Trends Analyt Chem. 2021;143:116408. doi:10.1016/j.trac.2021.116408

  9. Mustieles V, Fernández MF. Bisphenol A shapes children’s brain and behavior: towards an integrated neurotoxicity assessment including human data. Environ Health. 2020;19(66). doi:10.1186/s12940-020-00620-y

  10. National Library of Medicine. From neurons to neighborhoods: The science of early childhood development.