Folic acid: A must-have nutrient for babies
Nutrition during pregnancy often speaks of folic acid or folate, a B-vitamin. Your doctor would have asked you to not to skip it. But did you know the benefits of folic acid are not limited to pregnancy? It continues to play a vital role in the baby’s life even after birth. Here is a comprehensive article on why paying extra attention to this micronutrient can work wonders for the growth of your baby.
Why folic acid is important for your baby’s growth and development?
Ever heard of the neural tube? The neural tube is a hollow structure, made of tissue, which later forms the brain, spinal cord, and nervous system. During early pregnancy, the neural tube, a flat structure begins to roll and close into a tube, shaping the communication between the spine and brain. Folic acid is the key nutrient for this event.
Lack of or insufficient folic acid leads to defects called neural tube defects (NTDs). For example, the spinal cord does not close completely, leading to nerve damage and paralysis (called spina bifida) or a major part of the brain and skull do not develop (called anencephaly).
During infancy, the brain grows at a rapid pace. As a matter of fact, the brain doubles in size by one year of age, and reaches 80% of its adult volume by three years of age! According to a report, folic acid being a brain-boosting nutrient is thus, essential for babies. It is a nutrient that is often associated with a good memory. At a stage when the child is learning new things every day, it is necessary to ensure they receive folic acid adequately.
Folic acid also helps in the development and function of cells and tissues, making it an important nutrient for infancy, which is a period of rapid growth. It is required for the formation of red blood cells and hemoglobin, thereby ensuring all organs in the baby’s body receives blood and nutrients. Lastly, folic acid also aids in the formation of white blood cells, which help the body fight against infections, especially necessary for newborns as they are at a vulnerable stage.
Ways to ensure sufficient intake of folic acid for babies through diet
After reading about the numerous benefits of folic acid for baby’s development, as a mother you must be wondering how to make sure your little one meets his/her folic acid requirement. In the first six months after birth, it is incumbent on that you, a breastfeeding mom, consume foods rich in this nutrient so that you can provide it to your child. After six months of age, when the first foods are introduced, you must ensure the baby’s diet contains sufficient folic acid. The following are a few sources through which can help accomplish this task.
- Folic acid is found abundantly in green leafy vegetables such as spinach and can be introduced to the infant in the form of soup.
- Legumes like beans and lentils (dals) contain a good amount of folic acid and can be given to children in the form of porridges after they are pressure cooked and mashed.
- Along with being rich in protein and a host of other vital nutrients, eggs also boast of being a great source of folate. Eggs can be given to the child in the form of custard.
- Bananas and papayas are fruits that are high in folate and can be given to the child in the form of milkshakes, puddings, or by simply cutting into a size that is acceptable for them to consume without choking.
Top folic acid foods
Apart from the foods mentioned above, there are a few other foods that are high in this micronutrient and can be incorporated in the diet to meet the daily requirements of your child. These include kidney beans (rajma), black-eyed peas (lobia), chickpeas, peas, nuts like walnuts, cruciferous veggies like broccoli and fruits like avocado and mango.
So, new moms or moms-to-be, now that you are now aware of this vital vitamin, don’t forget to include folic acid-rich foods in your baby’s diet to raise a smart and healthy baby.