Friday, December 19, 2014

Maternal and Infant Health: Omega-3 for the Brain!

An area that has always interested me is maternal and infant a mother who has nursed both of my beautiful daughters (and still going strong!), I maintain committed to breastfeeding not only for the bonding time but for their long-term health and well being. A mother's diet truly is important during nursing as the nutrients are delivered to baby. The omega-3 fatty acid status determines the content of the breast milk thus the amount of DHA in the milk. DHA stands for docosahexaenoic acid, an essential fatty acid that is literally found in the brain. Mom's intake of fish and/or omega-3 supplements will lead to healthy doses of DHA in her breast milk which are then transferred right to, right?! It gets even better. DHA in breast milk is very important as studies show it has a positive influence on baby's cognitive health and functioning.

If you choose to use formula, there are formulas now formulated with DHA, which may be a good choice for baby, depending on their dietary needs and health status.

Now before going on about this, it is important to stress the difference between various healthy fats. Consuming foods, such as walnuts, flax seed, chia seed and flax oil contain ALA, a type of fat that can convert to DHA but little is actually converted to DHA. That is why it is important for mom to consume omega- 3 fatty acids that come from fatty fish such as tuna and salmon. If you do not like fish, an omega-3 supplement will do just fine. But be sure to check your labels as many are not so great. Look at the label and ensure the total omega-3 fatty acids between DHA and EPA result in 1000 mg total or greater. DHA should be about 2xs more than EPA as DHA is the type of fat found in the brain.

When taken daily throughout breastfeeding and then providing a supplement to children after breastfeeding, this may lead to improved health in infants and children, such as:

  • Improved attention and cognitive functions
  • A decrease in allergies, respiratory illness and eczema
  • Improved immune functioning

Did this convince you I hope? :-) Another note to consider...a high quality omega-3 will not result in burping. If you have burped before with an omega-3 supplement, chances are it is rancid and poor quality. There are some flavored omega-3 supplements out there as well. I use CardioTabs Liquid Omega-3 but you can find numerous ones at various health food stores.

With cold weather here for good, for a while...this is a great time to start increasing your intake of DHA not just for maternal and infant cognitive health but for overall better immune health to protect you from getting sick.

Happy holidays and Best in Health...

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