Scientific research is constantly expanding our knowledge of nutritional needs during pregnancy, as well as for our infants and toddlers to ensure optimal physical and brain development. Among the most recent developments in this field is the importance of omega-3 fatty acids (EPA & DHA) in both the development of a healthy baby and in the health of the mother. Omega-3s, a family of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids - essential nutrients for health and development, are not produced by our bodies and must be obtained via our diet or supplementation.
Today we are focusing on the DHA component. DHA omega-3 is found throughout the body, but is the most abundant in the brain, eyes, and heart. In fact:
- 97 percent of all omega-3 fats in the brain is DHA
- 93 percent of all omega-3 fats in the retina is DHA
For mothers: Taking a natural DHA supplement is essential, but a portion of DHA can be obtained from dietary sources including:
- Algae - Certain microalgae are natural sources of DHA.
- Fatty fish including anchovies, salmon, herring, mackerel, tuna and halibut (all fish sources should be wild-caught in northern waters)
Note: There is a common misconception that flaxseed oil is a dietary source of DHA. Flaxseed oil is a source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is a precursor of DHA. ALA has no known independent benefits on brain or eye development and function. Although the human body can convert ALA to DHA, the process is inefficient and variable.
For infants: Before birth and in the first few months of life (if breastfed), infants obtain this vital nutrient via their mother. Natural DHA liquid supplements should be offered early, and once they start eating, it’s important to include DHA sources in their diet. At Bambinos Organic Baby Foods, our recipes are inspired by leading research and supported by pediatricians and allergists for allergy prevention, nutrition, and superior flavor, offering the perfect solution.
We blend fresh, wild-caught, young Alaskan halibut and Alaskan salmon with brown rice and fresh grown organic vegetables to produce a great tasting baby food, which will not only delight your baby but also supply much-needed nutrition and prepare them for a lifetime of healthy choices. Both the Alaskan halibut and sockeye salmon are rich sources of DHA.
DHA offers multiple benefits for people of all ages. In fact, Dr. R Rauch, ND goes so far to say that “if a person can only afford to take one supplement, then that choice should almost always be an Omega-3 supplement. Various research and tests reveal potential benefits of Omega-3 DHA for mother and baby, which include:
- Improves visual development
- Enhances cognitive development
- May reduce allergies in infants
- Enhances immune development in infants
- Decreases anxiety, aggression, and depression in children
- Increases intelligence in children*
- Helps prevent pre-term labor and delivery
- Lowers the risk of preeclampsia
- May increase birth weight
- Helps prevent postpartum depression
- Improves eye-hand coordination
- Builds stronger motor skills
- Increases attention span
*In one study, a group of infants received either an omega-3 fat supplement or a placebo. Tests to evaluate their cognition were given every six months starting at age 18 months and continuing until they were 6 years old. While no changes were noted in the early test done at 18 months, the study found that infants consuming omega-3 fats outscored the placebo group later, between 3 and 5 years old. The omega-3 fat group scored higher on rule learning, vocabulary, and intelligence testing, which suggests early omega-3 fat supplementation, during the key period when your child’s brain is still developing, may pay off with greater intelligence in the pre-school and school-aged years.
The American Pregnancy Association offers the following points through various articles.
- A healthy mom who prepares her body’s nutrient stores as adequately as she can before conception and takes both a prenatal vitamin and a prenatal omega-3 fatty acidsupplement increases her baby’s level of health.
- Ideally, a pure, high-quality omega-3 fish oil should be included in a woman’s supplement regimen at least 6 months before conception, during pregnancy, and while breastfeeding.
- Since DHA is selectively transferred to the fetus throughout the pregnancy, keeping levels sufficient is essential to ensure optimal fetal brain, eye, immune, and nervous system development.
- According to researchers at the University of Kansas, infants born to mothers with higher blood levels of DHA at delivery had advanced levels of attention spans well into their second year of life. During the first 6 months, these infants were 2 months ahead of babies whose mothers had lower DHA levels. John Colombo, Ph.D., one of the lead researchers, said that attention is considered an important component of intelligence early in life. According to the researcher, fish oil is a safe and natural source of DHA, ideal for pregnancy and nursing.
- International Experts recommend 300-600 mg of DHA per day for pregnant and lactating women.
How much DHA do you and your baby need?
While the FDA has yet to determine a minimum daily requirement, many health organizations have established a dosage recommendation. ISSFAL (the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids) has established the following recommended minimum dosage* chart:
Pregnant and lactating women: 300mg DHA daily**
Infants (1-18 months): O-15 lbs. should be given 32mg per/pound of baby’s weight
Children (1.5 – 15 yrs.): 15mg per/pound of weight
*These were updated July 2015
**Note: The American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada recommend that pregnant and lactating women (along with all adults) consume at least 500 milligrams (mg) of omega-3s, including EPA and DHA, daily.
Bambinos Organic Baby Food helps parents grow strong, healthy babies. All of our products begin with ingredients grown in Alaska's pure, natural and untainted soils by certified organic and natural farmers, specifically for Bambino’s Baby Food. Our natural ingredients are NEVER pre-frozen and go directly from the farmer straight into our meals. We guarantee parents quality and convenience. Our mission is simple: Real food parents can trust, and flavors children will love.