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Children who are sick, poorly nourished, or in pain cannot interact well with others or take in cognitive information— and as a result, their brain development may be delayed or disrupted. Healthy children who can see and hear well, who are well-nourished, and who are not in pain are better able to create and strengthen brain connections needed for all areas of development.
Good health begins in pregnancy. The brain begins developing shortly after conception and continues throughout pregnancy. Deficits in certain key nutrients (such as folic acid) during critical periods of prenatal development can lead to lifelong disabilities. Women who are pregnant need to eat a well-balanced diet, get regular prenatal care, and avoid excessive stress. Women planning to become pregnant should talk to their doctor to ensure that their diet contains the key nutrients essential during early pregnancy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has in-depth information about pregnancy, including information about nutrition before and during pregnancy.
Good health is equally important during childhood. Children need regular check-ups, immunizations, and nutritious diets to support healthy development. Research also shows that breastfeeding can be beneficial to brain development. The American Academy of Pediatrics website has a wide variety of additional information on good health during infancy and childhood.