Baby Poop & Brain Growth

When you think about baby brain development, you probably picture things like brain-boosting toys or gadgets designed to stimulate babies’ cognitive development. What you probably don’t think about is something that every baby does every day, and something that parents become very intimately familiar with (but probably never really gave much thought to before they became parents): poop.

Poop takes on a whole new meaning once you have a baby. You make sure they are pooping frequently enough, that it’s not too runny or too hard, freak out when it’s blue (only to relax when the pediatrician tells you it was just the blueberries your little one ate for breakfast), and occasionally deal with a major cleanup when you have a diaper blowout (which inevitably occurs when both you and baby are dressed in nice outfits and are out somewhere super-inconvenient for a diaper change). According to a surprising and super-intriguing study, what’s in a baby’s diaper — and in his gut — may offer important information about not only a baby’s physical health, but about his brain, too.

Why Baby Poop?

There are trillions of microbes in the gut, and they are known to play a role in our health, affecting, for instance, how well our bodies metabolize and use nutrients in food. Research has also shown that having a low diversity of microbes in infancy is linked to health problems such as type 1 diabetes and asthma.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine set out to find out whether or not there is a link between microbes in the gut and brain development. They examined fecal samples of 89 one-year-olds and grouped these samples into three clusters according to similarities in their microbial communities.

A year later, when the babies were 2 years old, researchers examined their poop again and found that babies with higher amounts of certain kinds of microbial communities — specifically, the bacteroides species — performed better on a series of cognitive tests that measured things like fine and gross motor skills, language development, and perception abilities than their counterparts. Interestingly enough, the researchers also found that babies with highly diverse gut microbes didn’t perform as well on the tests as those with less diverse microbes.

The Bottom Line on Your Baby’s Gut and Bottom

It’s important to note that the research is in its early stages; it’s much too soon to say that parents should give their babies certain amounts of specific kinds of probiotics to boost brain function. But it’s an important clue that researchers can use as they search for more information about the role microbes play in a baby’s development. And researchers aren’t sure yet exactly how microbes are influencing cognitive development. (Are they communicating with the developing brain, for example?)

Until we know more, this study is simply a reminder that babies need a nutritious diet, not only to build their bodies, but their brains, too. And it’s worth talking to your doctor about which baby foods — like yogurt — might be worth adding to your baby’s diet to boost gut health.

Judging by the sheer volume of baby-brain development toys and gadgets on the market today, it’s pretty clear that parents want to do everything they can to make sure their little one reaches his or her full cognitive potential. Parents also read to their babies, sing songs and play games to nurture their info-absorbing minds. As this intriguing study suggests, they may also want take a look at what’s going into their baby’s tummy — and coming out in the diaper — to boost baby’s brain power.


Is My Newborn’s Poop Normal?

6 Games That Boost Baby’s Brain

5 Weird Things That Newborns Do That Are Actually Totally Normal

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Latest WhatToExpect Stories