Eating more omega-3s is health-building for all ages but there are stages of life when omega-3 have the most profound influence which is during pregnancy and your child’s infancy. And what’s good for the baby is good for the mom. Research suggests that it may help mothers be happier after birth.
We will explain further the relation between omega-3 and postpartum moms and the benefits it has in breastfeeding.
What is Omega-3?
Omega-3s are nutrients that help build and maintain a healthy body that we get from the food we eat or supplements. The two essential types are EPA and DHA which are usually found in some fish. While ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) is found in plants like nuts and seeds.
Omega-3 is an energy source and helps your heart, lungs, blood vessels, and immune system work properly. It is not only needed by your body to function but also gives big health benefits.
Omega-3 benefits for moms and babies
The right amount of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) in your breast milk is something that you should ensure while breastfeeding. It is an Omega-3 fatty acid that is most abundant in the brain and retina of the eye. But it is studied that DHA is vital during the first two years of a child’s development, particularly in the brain and eye health. A woman’s breast milk contains DHA so while breastfeeding it transfers nutrients such as DHA to the baby.
Over sixty percent of the brain consists of fat and is made up of DHA. The more omega-3 you have inside your brain, the better the neurons can communicate. This is supported by the following studies.
A study from the Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas found that children whose moms took DHA while breastfeeding performed better on sustained attention tasks at 5 years of age compared to children with moms who did not take DHA. And they also performed better on psychomotor tests at 4 months of age unlike the children of moms who did not.
University of Oslo, Norway also determined that moms who increased their intake of DHA during lactation resulted in better mental processing scores with their children at 4 years of age. Thus, a mother’s intake of Omega-3 DHA affects a baby’s brain development up to the age of 2. This will ensure that the baby meets proper cognitive and behavioral achievements.
It has been found that high levels of DHA in breast milk are associated with higher infant lgA or an antibody class that is important in mucosal immunity, according to Infant Risk. It may also reduce the risk of food allergies and asthma in offspring.
During the breastfeeding process, the mother’s own depot of Omega-3 tends to diminish since the baby sucks the omega-3s out of the mom. A mother’s risk of depression increases if there is an omega-3 deficiency that’s why postpartum mood disorders may become worse and begin earlier. Therefore, consuming Omega-3 not just benefits the baby but also the mother.
Martha Sears, a lactation consultant, stated that many of the increased health benefits of breastfeeding versus formula-fed babies are attributed to the higher omega-3 fat content in mother’s milk than in infant formula.
Where to get Omega-3?
The best sources of EPA and DHA are cold-water fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, anchovies, and herring. You can also take purified fish oil supplements for those who are concerned about mercury and other toxins in fish.
Certain types of omega-3 fats from plant foods like walnuts and flax can be converted to DHA. High-DHA eggs are another important food source. Canola oil, soybean oil, and chia seeds also contain omega-3 fats. Some oils and nuts can be high in calories so you need to eat them in moderation.
There are different recommendations on how much Omega-3 you should consume. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that nursing women consume an average of 300 mg per day or more of DHA, either by eating fish or taking an omega-3 supplement. Because of metabolism differences and various individual health issues, the right amount of omega-3 needed to fully maximize the benefits can differ between individuals.
You can also check out our Belta Mama Rhythm Postpartum Supplement for Breastfeeding. It contains krill oil, flaxseed oil, and egoma oil that has Omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA and EPA. This would help with great quality breast milk production, management of anxiety and depression symptoms and helps fight stress and fatigue caused by child care.
Mary Harris, PhD, RDN, a professor and dietetics program director at Colorado State University in Fort Collins advised women to eat fish twice per week because it’s high in DHA, but it also has other nutrients like iron, selenium, and important amino acids. Omega-3 is a vital nutrient that ensures the best brain development for the infant and also the mental state of the mother. Try our Belta Mama Rhythm Postpartum Supplement to get your daily omega-3s while supporting your postpartum recovery and breastfeeding your little one.