Pregnant Or Breastfeeding Nutrition: What You Eat Can Impact Your Baby’s Cognition

It’s smart to give your baby a healthy start and that means controlling what we can with our eating plan. Whether you are looking to conceive, are pregnant or nursing you want to be preventative, proactive and impactful with foods that deliver optimal nutrition for the fetus and infant.


What you choose to eat can affect your baby’s brain health. The goal is to make sure you meet the daily recommendations of the critical cognitive bundle ( iodine, choline and B12) through the foods you eat. It is hard to get what you need through supplements alone and some supplements may not even contain iodine.

You may be asking how do iodine, choline and vitamin B12 work? 742daba8-d686-4bcc-89cf-b352c95050d4/NDC_Lifespan_Pregnancy-and-Breastfeeding_FINAL-12-01-2021.pdf

IODINE– helps support brain development and protect against neurocognitive defects. Iodine needs increase 50% during pregnancy.

Iodine deficiency is the most preventable cause of intellectual disability.

CHOLINE– helps support growth and development of the baby’s brain and spinal cord.

VITAMIN B12– helps prevent deficiencies that can result in permanent neurological damage.

Increasing or making sure you are eating the recommended daily servings from the dairy food group (i.e., milk, yogurt and cheese) is a good way to ensure adequate iodine intake which benefits fetal and infant neurocognitive development. Milk, cheese and yogurt contain vitamin B12 and some contain choline as well (e.g., 8 ounces of milk provides 8% of the Daily Value for choline). In addition, dairy foods are a source of potassium, calcium and vitamin D, which are nutrients of concern in the U.S.(not consumed in adequate amounts) and are of benefit to mother and child. Pregnant and breastfeeding women who optimize dairy intake help their babies nourish to flourish regarding growth and development as well as cognitive potential.

Source: Higgins K et al. Nutrition and Health https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih/gov/pmc/articles/PMC7258892/

Eating the recommended 3 daily servings of dairy can help you get more nutritional benefits per sip or bite. Plus, foods should be the first option, followed by supplementation because foods provide calories, macronutrients (i.e., protein, carbohydrate and fat), vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients (i.e., plant nutrients) to increase the nutritional value.


What foods should you include to increase your intake of iodine, choline and B12?

Nutritional Yeast
Cereal, enriched
Iodized salt


Savory Breakfast Oatmeal

1 cup oats, dry
1 cup dairy milk
¼ cup shredded cheese
1 egg
1 cup baby spinach, chopped or use frozen, thawed and drained
½ cup canned tomatoes, drained or fresh, chopped
½ cup onion, chopped
Iodized salt and pepper to taste
Cayenne pepper or hot sauce if desired

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a pan, sauté 1 cup spinach and ¼ cup chopped onion with tomatoes in 2 teaspoons olive oil.
In a bowl mix 1 cup oats, 1 cup milk, 1 beaten egg and ¼ cup shredded cheese. Add the vegetables and spoon into an 8×8 baking dish. Cook for 30 minutes.

Baked Cod with Greek Yogurt/Cereal Topping

4 cod fillets- fresh or frozen
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
½ cup crushed flake-type cereal or breadcrumbs
Minced garlic, 2 cloves
Paprika- ½ teaspoon
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix together Greek yogurt, a whole grain flake-type cereal or breadcrumbs, garlic and spices. Coat cod filets with the mixture and bake 30 minutes or until fish is flaky.
Serve with pasta (cooked in water with iodized salt) and tossed with broccoli, garlic, and olive oil and garnished with shredded cheese.


Create a great glass, bowl or plate with ease and foods that are sure to please with accessibility, versatility and affordability to help you and your baby strive and thrive.

See the iodine resource for more tips and ideas