THE BLOG
01/28/2013 10:57 am ET | Updated Mar 30, 2013

How to Make Your Baby Smarter

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Are you hoping for a Baby Einstein? You don't need to be a Tiger Dad to want the best for your kids, and being smart generally leads to an easier, happier life. But what are the facts and what are myths? Before you force your baby to listen to Mozart, check out the latest research to find exactly what will make a difference to a baby's future IQ. Even if you're not a competitive dad, you may want to try out these research-tested "Baby Smart Tips." Together, they could make big difference to your child's IQ. And they are so easy to do; you'd be an idiot not to:

Baby Smart Tip 1 - Iodine

Boosting your child's future IQ starts early. In the womb. Mom's diet can have a big impact on the developing fetus' brain. One of the most important micronutrients is Iodine. Deficiency during pregnancy, particularly the first 12 weeks, is linked to significantly lower IQ in children. A review showed that the introduction of iodine supplementation led to an increase in a child IQ's of between 12 and 17.25 points. So switch to iodized salt as soon as you start thinking about conception and make sure mom eats plenty of sea fish, milk, yogurt, cheese and eggs. (Note: avoid predatory fish such as tuna, shark, marlin etc. because they main contain high levels of mercury, which can be harmful.)

Baby Smart Tip 2 - Vitamin D

In a recent study, Spanish scientists measured the vitamin D levels in 1,820 pregnant women. Most of the women were in their second trimester, and 20% were vitamin D-deficient. The Spanish team found that the babies of mothers whose prenatal vitamin D level was deficient scored significantly lower on both a mental test and a psychomotor test at about 14 months of age than babies of women whose prenatal vitamin D level was adequate.
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In the USA, the problem may be even worse. At this time, 40-60% of the entire U.S. population is vitamin D deficient, including pregnant women. Many people get adequate vitamin D from a combination of diet and sunlight, but even in sunny states, serum Vitamin D levels can be low in many people. Pregnant women are advised by the Office of Dietary Supplements to get 15 mcg of Vitamin D a day from either food, sun or supplements.

Baby Smart Tip 3 - Baby Signing

The great babys signing debate has been raging for years. Some research claims that they have identified both improved language acquisition and a long term increase in IQ; others have claimed that baby signing may actually slow down speech development. But what does the research actually say? An article in the British Psychological Society's The Psychologist considered some of the claims made by baby signing supporters and concluded that there was "indicative, if not evidentially strong" evidence from baby signing research for its benefits, including "a reduction in problematic behaviors like tantrums resulting from frustration." The main problem is that most of the studies have been very small, so it's hard to draw any concrete conclusions. But if you're worried about the terrible twos, then baby signing might be the answer.

Baby Smart Tip 4 - Fish Oil

There is a growth spurt in the human brain during the last trimester of pregnancy and the first months of life after birth. This growth spurt sees a baby's brain take in lots of the acids found in fish oil. When scientists at the Department of Pediatric Research gave pregnant and breastfeeding women daily cod liver oil tablets, they found it did correlate significantly with "mental processing scores" at 4 years of age.

Baby Smart Tip 5 - Alcohol

The Dietary guidelines published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends: "Alcoholic beverages should not be consumed by some individuals, including... women of childbearing age who may become pregnant, pregnant and lactating women." There is much evidence that alcohol can be very damaging, resulting in Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, low birth weight, heart defects and miscarriage. But what about the odd glass of wine? Do one or two glasses a week really make a difference? Recent research suggests it depends on whether the mother has a gene variant which affects how her body mother processes alcohol. Moms with the variant, who drank between 1 and 6 units a week during pregnancy, had children with lower IQ scores at age 8. IQ was on average 2 points lower for each genetic variant they had. So should you drink any alcohol when you are pregnant? It depends on if you are feeling lucky...

Baby Smart Tip 6 - Pick the Right Parents

We've saved the biggest 'til last. The single biggest factor to influence a child's IQ is the IQ of its parents. Estimates vary, but a 2004 survey of the research concluded that the heritability of IQ is about 85% (where 100% is the maximum). Half of that is down to you and half down to mom. So, short of adoption, the best and easiest way to ensure your child is smart is to pick a smart mom. The easiest way to test this is to pull an IQ test sheet out on your first date and ask her to fill it in. If she avoids your calls after that, you can be pretty sure she's smart...