From the moment a mother becomes aware that she is eating for two, it is vital that she assess her usual diet to determine that all of the important vitamins, nutrients, and minerals needed for her baby’s development are being obtained in some manner. Eating a well-balanced diet is a great beginning, but in the case of mothers eating a diet which limits certain foods, because of health problems or moral choices, getting the needed nutrition for a growing foetus or breastfeeding infant may require adding supplements to the diet.
In recent years, research has found that omega-3 fatty acids are extremely important both to the foetus and to an infant obtaining all of his or her nutrition through breastfeeding. One of these fatty acids, Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), is vital to brain development and visual acuity. In fact, DHA is key to the development of the cells necessary for good eyesight and cognitive processing. Babies and children, then, who do not receive enough of this basic omega-3 fatty acid may have significant developmental problems.
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in high quantities in fish, fish oil, and meats. A breastfeeding mother whose diet limits these foods may be unknowingly withholding some of the most valuable ingredients in her baby’s diet. Some informed mothers try to make up for a lack of DHA by adding flax seed or flax seed oil to their daily fare, knowing that these natural substances contain a-Linolenic acid (ALA). While it is true that the body converts ALA into DHA, the process by which this is done is more complicated than it sounds.
ALA must first be changed into Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) which the body uses first. Only the amount of EPA left over is available for the body to form DHA, and according to new scientific evidence, this is not adequate production for a mother who is breastfeeding an infant. Both ALA and EPA help with the creation of DHA, but this process is not sufficient for producing breast milk with the required amount of essential fatty acids. Studies have shown that depending on the body to convert ALA and EPA to DHA does not result in breast milk with an acceptable level of HDA. Flax seed products, while helpful, may not be the final solution to a breastfeeding mother’s dilemma in obtaining enough of this omega-3 fatty acid.
What is a concerned mother to do when she realizes that her diet may be lacking in those elements most needed for a child’s optimum development? The easiest way to be certain that one is actually obtaining enough omega-3 fatty acids for breastfeeding is through incorporating supplements that contain preformed DHA. These are supplements which are manufactured straight from the organic plants, such as algae, where they are formed in nature. By taking preformed DHA capsules, mothers do not have to be concerned with contamination that may have entered other DHA sources because of pollution.
Breastfeeding mothers who supplement their diets with a source of preformed DHA can feel confident that they have done everything scientifically known, at this time, to provide the necessary omega-3 fatty acids to their diets. Even vegetarian mothers can rest assured that all of the bases have been covered, and they have added one of the most important building blocks for their infant’s future health and development.