OBJECTIVES:

We investigated the relative benefit of maternal multiple micronutrient (MMN) supplementation during pregnancy and until 3 months postpartum compared with iron/folic acid supplementation on child development at preschool age (42 months).

METHODS:

We assessed 487 children of mothers who participated in the Supplementation with Multiple Micronutrients Intervention Trial, a cluster-randomized trial in Indonesia, on tests adapted and validated in the local context measuring motor, language, visual attention/spatial, executive, and socioemotional abilities. Analysis was according to intention to treat.

RESULTS:

In children of undernourished mothers (mid-upper arm circumference <23.5 cm), a significant benefit of MMNs was observed on motor ability (B = 0.39 [95% confidence interval (CI): 0.08–0.70]; P = .015) and visual attention/spatial ability (B = 0.37 [95% CI: 0.11–0.62]; P = .004). In children of anemic mothers (hemoglobin concentration <110 g/L), a significant benefit of MMNs on visual attention/spatial ability (B = 0.24 [95% CI: 0.02–0.46]; P = .030) was also observed. No robust effects of maternal MMN supplementation were found in any developmental domain over all children.

CONCLUSIONS:

When pregnant women are undernourished or anemic, provision of MMN supplements can improve the motor and cognitive abilities of their children up to 3.5 years later, particularly for both motor function and visual attention/spatial ability. Maternal MMN but not iron/folic acid supplementation protected children from the detrimental effects of maternal undernutrition on child motor and cognitive development.

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