How Can DHA Help With Infant and Toddler Development

How Can DHA Help With Infant and Toddler Development
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It’s a known fact that infant and toddler years are crucial for better early growth, good health and overall well-balanced development. From turning over, crawling, babbling, walking to running and talking, your child needs ample nutrients and support throughout the early years.

DHA Docosahexaenoic Acid is a long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid that plays a vital role in the development of various bodily functions in children. It also helps in neurodevelopment, building immunity and better vision.

Since it’s not naturally made by the body, it’s predominantly found in formula supplementation, seafood, fish oil and even breast milk.

To get a better understanding of what Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) is, read below.

  • Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) is a type of Omega-3 fatty acid. It’s naturally found in fatty cold-water fishes like salmon, anchovies, tuna etc. It’s widely popular for reducing inflammation, preventing diabetes, lowering blood level of triglycerides providing gut support and various heart and neuron diseases. There are variations of plant-based DHA as well like krill oil, algae oil, fish oil and flaxseed.

Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) – Natural or Formula Supplemented?

Breast milk is the ultimate source of nutrient for a developing baby, the presence of DHA in it proves its importance for a growing child. However, the concentration of DHA in the breast milk varies depending on the diet, genes and the overall health of the mother. Additionally, it depends on the supplement intake of Omega-3 fatty acids by the mother.

Various studies show that formula-fed infants had distinctively lower levels of brain development DHA than infants who were breast-fed. On account of this conclusion, formula has been supplemented by DHA for successful vision, brain and cognitive development.

Hence, by most health practitioners, pregnant women are prescribed DHA supplementation as additional nutrient for a better development of the foetus. More so, through placental transfer there are significantly lower chances of babies to develop asthma, various food allergies and skin conditions like eczema.

Furthermore, it has been proved by multiple studies performed by healthcare professionals that there are no disadvantages or major side effects of supplementary intake of Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA). It’s usually derived from plant-based sources like algae, canola and flaxseed in purified oil form.

Lastly, it’s advisable to contact your health practitioner for the correct intake of Omega-3 fatty acids in the form of DHA. According to basic dietary guidelines, it’s better to opt for fish varieties that have high levels of DHA but low levels of methyl mercury like salmon and trout.

Prominent Influence of DHA on Your Growing Child

As parents we do everything in our will to provide a safe and healthy environment for our kids to develop structural and foundational functions. This process starts at a very early stage for it to have a long-lasting positive influence. One such element of the process includes sufficient intake of DHA Docosahexaenoic Acid as it helps in:

  • Aids Motor Development: Motor development is a type of physical development that is related to various physical skills like standing, running, jumping, walking and sitting. It’s critical for children from a young age to master motor skills including speech, sensory and cognitive development.

DHA insufficiency has been known to cause motor developmental delays. To avoid delay it’s recommended by most health experts for kids to intake fish high in DHA but low in mercury levels 2-3 times a week.

  • Supports Retinal Development: Since DHA accumulates highly in the retina (the main centre of the eye) it’s widely known to help infants and toddlers with visual development. Its deficiency can lead to multiple retinal diseases like diabetic retinopathy. Moreover, it influences toddler’s eyesight from a young age by forming the foundational component of the retina.
  • Better Behavioural Performance: Toddlers often act out, throw tantrums, cause disruption and even show speech delay performances. Such symptoms, if not always, can be related to attention deficient hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Whether behavioural issues are due to ADHD or just a toddler being a toddler, fish oil containing DHA shows excellent improvement in language, behavioural and memory-related performance.
  • Promotes Brain Development: Right after birth an infant goes through rapid brain development. To establish a smooth process of said brain development, it’s essential to fuel it with DHA. It provides cognitive, along with social and emotional elementary units that make up polished information processing skills.

DHA Amount Recommendation According to Age

The benefits of DHA are apparent and essential for efficient brain, vision, behavioural and cognitive development and overall mental well-being of infants and toddlers. If you are pregnant it’s beneficial for the baby to get as much DHA through you so focus on DHA-based diets and doctor recommended supplements.

However, be careful to not exceed your daily/weekly intake of DHA especially through cold-water fatty fishes as most of them contain mercury as well. High levels of mercury can cause risk of bleeding and affect your immune system.

Fishes with high levels of DHA but low levels of mercury are shrimp, salmon and trout. Fishes with high levels of DHA but also contain high levels of mercury are shark, halibut and swordfish.

 

▪         Infants, 0-6 months – 0.1% to 0.18% total DHA energy consumption (via breast milk or formula supplement)

 

▪         Infants, 6-24 months – 10-12 mg per day of DHA intake (via breast milk or formula supplement)

 

▪         Toddlers, 2-4 years – DHA + EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) 100 to 150 daily (via cold-water fatty fish intake, plant-based sources or supplements)

 

▪         Breastfeeding Mothers – 200 mg DHA daily *(8 to 12 ounce seafood per week)

 

▪         Pregnant Women – 200 mg DHA daily *(8 to 12 ounce seafood per week)

Conclusion – Stay Safe and Get Omega-3 Fatty Acids DHA Levels Tested

It’s always a wise decision to have as much knowledge as possible before introducing a new supplement or adding a specific food item in your kid’s diet. To maintain your child’s long-lasting mental and physical well-being, it’s important to get them tested for various deficiencies, particularly DHA deficiency.

Conclusively, to find the right DHA supplement for your child you can get the Omega 3 index test. It shows the levels of DHA in your child’s bloodstream through red blood cells, whether low or high. Depending on the levels, you or the health practitioner can determine how it affects the brain development and which DHA supplement will best aid your child.


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Katherine is just getting her start as a journalist. She attended a technical school while still in high school where she learned a variety of skills, from photography to nutrition. Her enthusiasm for both natural and human sciences is real so she particularly enjoys covering topics on medicine and the environment.

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