Does My Baby Need
We’ve established that omega-3’s are important during pregnancy, but now you may be asking: does my baby need omega-3? The answer is yes! Omega-3 fatty acids are important throughout our lifetime and for your baby’s development.
What are Omega-3s?
Omega-3s are essential fatty acids(1). Therefore, your body needs to get them from your diet and so does your baby. As such, this can be accomplished via breast milk or formula and is also important when introducing solids.
Types of Omega-3s
There are three type of omega-3s:
- ALA: Alpha-linolenic acid
- DHA: Docosahexaenoic acid
- EPA: eicosapentaenoic acid
The Importance of Omega-3
Why does your baby need omega-3? Below are a few benefits of each type of omega-3:
- Modified by the body into EPA and DHA (6)
- Important in eye, nerve, and membrane development in infants (1)
DHA and EPA
- Many health benefits and functions:
- Can help prevent and treat heart disease (1)
- Lower risk of stroke (1)
- Can help in reducing symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (1)
- DHA is a major structural fatty acid of the brain and retina of the eye (2)
- DHA is important for visual and mental development during the first two years of life (2)
- Many health benefits and functions:
It’s clear that there are benefits of omega-3s during the developing years. However, evidence for the health benefits of EPA and DHA intake in children is limited (5).
Foods That Contain Omega-3
The limited data doesn’t discredit the importance of omega-3 for your baby, because their body still needs it. Therefore, Omega-3 is just as important for them as it is for us! As well, with health benefits that target adult populations, such as lowering risk for stroke and heart disease, it’s a great idea to get your baby comfortable eating foods that contain omega-3’s (5).
It’s also important that you eat omega-3 foods for your own, and your baby’s benefit, especially if you’re breastfeeding. This is because DHA is transferred through breastmilk (4).
Foods with ALA (1):
- Flaxseed & flaxseed oil
- Hemp seeds and their products
- Canola oil and soybean oil
- Soy foods (tofu, soybeans, fortified soy beverage)
- Non-hydrogenated margarine made with canola or soybean oil
Foods with DHA and EPA (1):
Other food choices high in omega-3s (1):
- Omega-3 eggs (1)
- Algae, seaweed, kelp (1)
- Walnuts (1)
- DHA and EPA enriched foods such as margarine, milk, and yogurt (1)
- Try this recipe that’s full of omega-3 goodies: Cookies and Cream Energy Bars.
Food preferences and eating habits that are established in childhood have been shown to follow into adulthood to a certain degree (5). That being said, it’s a good idea to train your baby’s palate now with some of these yummy foods!
If you aren’t sure what foods are appropriate to introduce to your baby please reach out to us!
How Much Omega-3 Does My Baby Need?
The Adequate Intakes (AI’s) for omega-3 are as follows:
- Infants 0-6 months = 0.5 g/day
- Infants 7-12 months = 0.5 g/day
- Children 1-3 years = 0.7 g/day
- Children 4-8 years = 0.9 g/day
These values were taken from the Dietary Reference Intakes page on the Government of Canada Website (3). However, if you are concerned or aren’t sure if your baby is getting enough omega-3, book an appointment with us!
Eating fish during pregnancy and breastfeeding has been linked to better infant and child development (4). These benefits are still true with vegan or vegetarian diets, as long as a balanced diet is followed (4).
Final Notes from The Nest
Omega-3’s are certainly important for everyone, including your baby! Even though the research is limited on the importance of omega-3 for babies and children, there is still evidence of its benefits for the human body in general. The main health benefit is its role in nerve, brain, and eye development. This is why your baby needs omega-3, and this is why YOU need omega 3! Because DHA can be transferred through breast milk, it’s important that you eat sources of this essential fatty acid during pregnancy and breastfeeding. If you’re unsure if you are meeting omega-3 requirements for yourself, your baby, or both, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at The Nest!
Article Written by Spencer Wentzell
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- Cardiovascular disease. Increasing Your Omega-3 Intake. (2018, December 14). Retrieved May 23, 2022, from https://www.pennutrition.com/KnowledgePathway.aspx?kpid=2671&trid=13497&trcatid=467
- Fealey T. DHA omega-3: looking after baby. Nutraceutical business & technology. 2009;5(1):44–.
- Government of Canada. (2010, November). Dietary reference intakes definitions – canada. Government of Canada. Retrieved May 24, 2022, from https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/hc-sc/migration/hc-sc/fn-an/alt_formats/hpfb-dgpsa/pdf/nutrition/dri_tables-eng.pdf
- Health Canada. (2009). Dietary reference intakes definitions – canada. Health Canada. Retrieved May 24, 2022, from https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/hc-sc/migration/hc-sc/fn-an/alt_formats/hpfb-dgpsa/pdf/nutrition/dri_tables-eng.pdf
- Koletzko, Berthold et al, “Dietary intake of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in children – a workshop report” (2010) 103:6 British journal of nutrition 923–928.
- Reyes, V. P., Capps, J. W., Méndez, Y. L., Leal, G. R., & Avitia , G. (2019). Chapter 10: Omega-3 and Cognition in Children with Malnutrition. In Omega Fatty Acids in Brain and Neurological Health (Second Edition , pp. 143–159). essay, Academic Press. Retrieved May 17, 2022, from DOI https://doi.org/10.1016/C2017-0-01595-1.