Good nutrition is important for everyone, but it takes on even greater emphasis if you’re pregnant. Getting inadequate amounts of certain nutrients such as folate during pregnancy can cause life-threatening brain and spinal cord abnormalities to an unborn baby ― and lack of iron can cause brain abnormalities too. Research shows that getting adequate vitamin B12 during pregnancy has an impact too: it could make for a quieter baby.
According to a study published in the journal Early Human Development, pregnant women who get more vitamin B12 during pregnancy have babies who cry less. They came to this surprising conclusion by measuring vitamin B12 levels in almost 3,000 pregnant women when they came in for their post-pregnancy exam.
After comparing vitamin B12 levels with measurements of how long and often their babies cried, they found that moms with the lowest B12 levels were up to eight times more likely to have a baby who cried excessively.
How does it affect how much a baby cries?
Researchers speculate that a lack of B12 may alter the brain activity of young babies. Vitamin B12 is needed to produce myelin, the sheath that covers and protects nerve cells. When this protection isn’t adequate, it can lead to neurological problems and even excessive crying.
Another theory is a lack of B12 during pregnancy alters levels of hormones like melatonin that control a baby’s sleep-wake cycle, leading to problems sleeping and excessive crying.
Should moms-to-be get more vitamin B12 in their diet?
Vitamin B12 is only found naturally in meat and dairy products, although nutritional yeast and some fortified foods contain small amounts. This means that vegan moms-to-be are at higher risk for low vitamin B12 levels ― and this can cause problems with brain and nervous system development in the unborn baby.
Unfortunately, some sources of vitamin B12 are on the list of foods to avoid during pregnancy, such as shellfish, raw eggs, soft cheeses, liver, deli meats, and some types of fish. Since vitamin B12 plays a role in the development of a baby’s brain, pregnant women should talk to their doctor about getting more vitamin B12 during pregnancy ― by taking a supplement ― especially if they eat a vegan diet.