If you haven’t noticed, we are in the midst of a baby “boomlet”—not quite another baby boom, but significant nevertheless. In fact, a record number of babies were born in 2007, according to federal data which suggests that 4,315,000 births occurred in that year alone. It's part of an upward climb in birth trends, and is the largest single-year increase since 1989.
This “boomlet” is expected to affect everything from school enrollment figures to how best to meet this demographic’s needs. In the midst of this smaller “baby boom,” it’s good to know that starting early in proper nutrition can help shape a healthy generation. One aspect of good nutrition is found in omega-3s—which can benefit both mom and baby.
Here are just a few examples of “mom and baby” omega-3 benefits:
- For baby, omega-3s are critical for growth and development, playing a crucial role in brain and eye development—as 70 percent of brain cell development takes place during gestation and is passed from mother to the fetus via the placenta.
- A number of studies have found that high levels of omega-3s during a woman’s pregnancy, either through diet or supplements, are associated with positive cognitive development in her child.
- For post-partum moms, those with more DHA in their blood had babies with better sleep patterns in the first 48 hours following delivery. Also, women with higher levels of DHA were less likely to develop the postpartum “blues.”
- For breast-feeding moms, omega-3 supplementation ensures adequate omega-3s for them and their babies. Research has shown that the breast milk of women living in the United States is deficient in omega 3s in comparison to women in China and Japan. Certain dietary changes or supplementation with an omega 3 source may be necessary for breast-feeding women to ensure their babies are receiving adequate quantities of DHA.
It’s pretty obvious that there are benefits when moms and baby get enough omega-3s, but it is also important to know where omega-3s are found and what to watch out for.
Women who are pregnant or are breastfeeding, as well as children, should be careful of toxins that can build up in some seafood. Smaller fatty fish like salmon and trout are often recommended, although eating no more than 12 ounces a week is a standard rule to follow.
Why fatty fish? They are some of the best sources of two very important omega-3s: DHA and EPA.
What about plant sources of omega-3s? There are plant sources of omega-3s, including flax, chia, olive oil, and some leafy greens. They contain a fatty acid called ALA, which has to be broken down into DHA and EPA in the body—but may not be as effective a dietary means to omega-3s as fatty fish is. These sources do have several health benefits, however.
Then there are omega-3 supplements. Nutrition gleaned from food is always primary, but adding an omega-3 supplement is sometimes preferred. In that case, fish oil has well-established benefits and is one valuable source of omega-3s.
At any rate, there is a fresh generation underway who needs nurtured in all sorts of ways, including proper nutrition. Let’s not have them (or their moms) come up short on their omega-3s.