Welcoming a new baby into your life can be such an exciting time, but it can also be completely overwhelming. From the moment your baby is born, you are faced with making hundreds of decisions that will have a direct impact on her future. From deciding on a name, to selecting the safest car seat, to choosing to breastfed or formula feed (or a combination of both), the need to make critical decisions never seems to end. And how you feed your baby to ensure she is getting the right nutrition everyday can often be the most stressful decision of them all.
Whether you chose to breastfeed or formula feed, your baby will rely on this as her sole source of nutrition until 4 to 6 months of age when you begin to introduce solid foods. However certain nutrients can be lacking from breastmilk and/or formula that you may want to consider adding into your infant’s diet in the form of a dietary supplement.
What supplement should my baby be taking?
There is one critical nutrient that is often lacking (from breastmilk and formula) – omega-3 fatty acids (specifically DHA and EPA) – that plays an important role in the development of your baby’s brain and vision. Even though these fatty acids can be consumed by the mother, it is often not enough. Research has found a majority of U.S. childbearing-age and pregnant women consumed significantly lower amounts of seafood recommended by dietary guidelines, leading to low intakes of EPA and DHA. When maternal levels of EPA and DHA are low, the baby receives less of these essential fatty acid in utero as well as in breastmilk.
Since DHA and EPA play an important role in normal cognitive development, brain function, and eye health, you want to ensure that your baby is consuming enough of these fatty acids consistently day after day.
When should my baby begin supplementing with DHA and EPA?
It is always best to speak to your child’s physician to determine when the best time to begin adding in an omega-3 fatty acid supplement. In general, before six months of age (when your child has not yet started solid food) you should discuss the best time to start supplementation with your child’s physician and/or dietitian.
A Word of Caution: Since most DHA and EPA supplements come from fish or shellfish, make sure to speak to your physician about potential allergy risks if a history of seafood allergies runs in your family.