​Getting a Healthy Start with DHA

We cannot overstate the importance of getting the right nutrition during pregnancy and early childhood. A diet that has the right balance of key nutrients will contain a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes, as well as seafood, lean meat, and dairy products. Unfortunately, in the busy world of today’s moms, convenience foods and simple meals sometimes replace nutritious dishes. For this reason, a prenatal vitamin can benefit a lot of soon-to-be moms.
prenatal vitamin is essential for both mom and baby. While the importance of folic acid is always something doctors discuss with women of childbearing age, it’s not the only nutrient to look for in a prenatal formula. The omega-3 DHA is also critical for mother and baby and can only be obtained from diet or a supplement. 
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding consume 8 to 12 ounces of seafood per week from a variety of seafood types. (However, pregnant women should avoid shark, swordfish, tilefish, and king mackerel, which can be higher in mercury.) Depending on the type of fish, 8 to 12 ounces can equate to 300 to 900 mg of EPA and DHA daily. Studies show the majority of moms do not eat this much seafood, so developing babies may not be receiving adequate amounts of these vital nutrients in the womb.
Benefits for Baby and Mom
If DHA is not available from the mother’s diet, the placenta will take DHA from her body, decreasing the mother’s level of DHA. Moms need DHA for mood health, while babies need DHA for brain, vision, and nervous system development. DHA is especially important during the third trimester, when the baby’s brain grows rapidly.
The Critical First Years
The periods before conception, during pregnancy, and throughout the first three years of life are the most critical for brain growth. This is when neurons are formed and the connections are made where neurotransmitters work. Once breastfeeding has ended, babies and children continue to need a DHA supplement, just like mom. DHA during early childhood supports learning and healthy brain development and function.
Supplemental Support
During pregnancy and breastfeeding, a woman needs at least 200 mg of DHA daily. Although there are no universal guidelines for DHA intake for children, according to the American Pregnancy Association, the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids recommends children ages 1 and a half to 15 years get 15 mg of DHA plus EPA for each pound of their body weight daily – that’s 600 mg of combined EPA and DHA every day for a 40-pound child. Before a child is ready to swallow pills, liquid supplements can be added to smoothies, yogurt, and stirred into practically any food.
Look for DHA formulas specially designed for pregnancy, lactation, babies, and children. A daily supplement will ensure everyone is getting enough of this critical nutrient.