Importance of Brain Development When Children Have Growth Concerns
The early years of children’s life are crucial for their health and development.
The early years of children’s life are crucial for their health and development. According to World Health Organization1, children need to obtain nurturing care to grow and develop optimally. Basically, children enjoy proper nutrition, good health and feel safe in a loving home. They are most likely to reach their full potential if immunization, proper healthcare system, learning opportunities and adequate nutrition are in place.
Role of parents in a child’s growth
Parents play a crucial role in the overall growth of a child. When a child is growing up, positive parenting improves a child problem-solving, cognitive and social-interaction skills. It is a constant journey of learning and growth, to make sure the child is staying on the right track. Parents are in an excellent position to be aware if a child is not growing through typical stages or milestones. In the event where growth delay happens in a child, getting professional help can make a tremendous difference in their quality of life, including learning and later development.
What are the growth concerns in a child?
Slow growth happens when a child falls below the average range of growth for a child’s age and sex. It refers to the children who are not able to achieve the development skills expected of them, as compared to other children of the same age and sex. Growth delays may happen in the areas of motor skills, cognitive, social-interaction skills, speech and communication, as well as body size. There are a number of factors causing the delay, including household food insecurity, lower socio-economic status, and poor child caring practices which associated with childhood malnutrition2. It may also be caused by hormonal disorders, genetics and systematic illnesses. Children with growth delay experience higher rates of behavior problems than typically developing children. They might encounter slow development in physical skills such as standing, sitting up, rolling over and walking. Social and mental skills delayed will be observed too. Subsequently, it might delay the development of secondary sexual characteristics later in life.
Brain development is affected by environmental factor
Nurturing and responsive care for the child’s body and mind is an important strategy to support healthy brain development3. Brain development is easily formed, making it strongly affected by the positive or negative experiences, and can have lifelong effects. Nurturing a child by working with their requirements and responding sensitively helps to protect children’s brain from stress. How well a brain develops depends on several factors other than genes, including proper nutrition, exposure to infections and the child’s experiences with other people. In case children are at risk of growth delay, keep an eye on their growth and brain development, it may help in detecting problems early and the children may receive the necessary intervention as early as possible.
Nutrition in brain development
Adequate nutrition is important for children’s brain development, particularly for those children with growth concerns. Nutrition is specifically crucial during pregnancy, which is an important period for shaping the brain, laying the foundation for the motor, socio-interaction skill, as well as cognitive development throughout childhood and adulthood. All nutrients are important for children’s growth and brain development; however, some nutrients appear to have greater effects. These include alpha-lactalbumin4, zinc, folic acid, iron, copper and long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids. Parents should include a variety of food such as whole grains products, eggs, fish, poultry or milks which contain all the essential nutrients, in the children’s daily meal to support their brain development. Eating a healthy meal helps in optimizing a child’s brain, providing short- and long-term benefits.
- Wong HJ, Moy FM, Nair S. Risk factors of malnutrition among preschool children in Terengganu, Malaysia: a case control study. BMC Public Health. 2014;14:785.
- Wolfram MB. The benefits of alpha-lactalbumin in early childhood. 2017. Academic Press: 117-126. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-809868-4.00008-X
Prepared by Dr Koo Hui Chin, Tunku Abdul Rahman University College
DISCLAIMER: The content is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your health professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Due to unique individual needs, the reader should consult health professional to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader's situation.