DHA is in fish oil. Breastfeeding mothers ought also have enough of it in their milk.

For quite some time now the benefits of breastfeeding have been well recognized. However it is now becoming equally well recognized that there are many benefits to a growing baby from an adequate consumption of DHA. Breastfeeding is how a growing baby sources it’s DHA, the most important Omega 3 essential fatty acid.

There are 2 principal Omega 3 essential fatty acids, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) that are now well recognized as essential to the health of all people, including growing babies and even including fetuses. An adequate intake of DHA is very important for the health of a growing fetus right from day one and we have written about the importance of an adequate intake of Omega 3 during pregnancy.

But maintaining an adequate supply of Omega 3 fats for the mother should not just stop at the end of pregnancy and birth of the baby. One of the most important breastfeeding tips is for the mother to maintain an adequate intake of DHA and EPA for the health of the growing baby during breastfeeding.

Omega 3 essential fatty acids are not produced in the body and the only source of these essential fats is food. Of course the only food that a baby eats is milk, and for breastfed babies it is breastmilk. So if DHA and EPA are important to the development of growing babies then it’s essential that they be found in the mothers breastmilk. This is one of the most important aspect of breastfeeding. Diet is very important to all of us, including babies.

Why is it essential that a baby get an adequate supply of DHA from breastfeeding? DHA is very important for a range of reasons including improving learning ability, improving memory, improving vision and more.

Here’s a quote from the website of Dr. Bruce Holub, a noted Emeritus professor in the Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences, University of Guelf, and previous president of the Nutrition Society of Canada.
Fish Oil and Breastfeeding

“Supplementation of breast-feeding women with 200 mg DHA/day for four months after delivery resulted in higher circulating levels of DHA in their blood plasma phospholipid and higher scores on the Bayley Psychomotor Development Index at 30 months of age. Positive relationships have also been reported for high levels of DHA in mothers’ milk and visual development in term infants as well as optimized arousal in newborn infants.

A Norwegian study indicated that women who supplemented their diet with 1183 mg DHA and 803 mg EPA per day for a 3 month period after delivery, after supplementing at a similar level from week 18 of pregnancy, gave rise to young children at four years of age who exhibited more favourable mental development based on the augmentation of their IQ assessments.”

Studies have shown that the average American, in fact over 90 percent of us, are deficient in the important Omega 3 essential fatty acids. These important fats are found in fish. A diet high in fish and other seafoods should produce adequate levels of Omega3 fats in the body, however almost none of us eat sufficient fish for this to be the case.

It is possible to get an Omega 3 fat, called ALA, from plant sources however this is nowhere near as beneficial as DHA and EPA and a diet high in plants containing ALA is not sufficient to produce sufficient Omega3 fats, including DHA, in the breastmilk.

DHA is found in fish oil. Breastfeeding mothers should not eat too much fish for reasons of contamination however the best way to get an adequate dietary intake of DHA is taking fish oil supplements. The best ones, (though not all) are contamination free, are relatively cost-effective and can be taken daily. By taking daily supplements of fish oil breastfeeding mothers can ensure adequate levels of DHA in their milk.

As can be seen there are significant benefits to growing babies from the essential Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish oil. Breastfeeding mothers ought be aware of the importance of maintaining a daily intake of DHA and EPA.

As noted the best way to do this is taking daily fish oil capsules. Omega 3 supplements are a simple, inexpensive and safe way to maintain adequate levels of Omega3 fats. However it is also important to note that not all Omega 3 capsules are as good as others.

There are wide variations in the amount of DHA present in the different brands of fish oil capsules and also variations in the effectiveness of the fish oils.

We have also written an article on how to compare fish oil capsules if you wish to read it.

It’s never too late to start and if you’re a breastfeeding mother, even if you’re not doing it now, you ought to begin supplementing your diet with fish oil. Breastfeeding mothers should be doing this as a matter of course right from birth, after 9 months of omega 3 supplementation during pregnancy.

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