If you are a mother or a pregnant woman who is reading about a baby’s brain development, then you must have come across the word DHA a lot of times. You must be curious to know what exactly is DHA and why it is so important for a growing baby.
In this article, let’s talk about DHA and its impact on your baby.
What Is DHA?
DHA or Docosahexaenoic Acid is an omega-3 fatty acid that is found in the brain. It is a polyunsaturated fatty acid, the good kind of fat responsible for brain and eye development of the child.
More than half of the brain is made up of these omega 3 fatty acids, out of which DHA is the most important. DHA is accumulated in the fetal brain during pregnancy and continues until the development of the brain.
Also read: DHA For Kids: The Complete Guide For Parents
DHA And Brain Development
A recommended level of DHA during the early years supports the rapid growth and development of the brain. It is responsible for:
- Child’s Focus.
- Attention, planning and problem-solving skills.
- Social, behavioral and emotional development of the baby.
- Comprehension, reasoning, computation, perception, reading, and speech.
- Protection of existing brain cells and the growth of new brain cells.
- Enhances the ability of brain cells to connect with each other i.e neuroplasticity.
- Lets children learn and remember things on a daily basis.
Lack Of DHA Can Lead To:
- Lower brain volume
- Poor performance on tests of visual memory, problem-solving and abstract thinking.
- Poor social skills.
Sources Of DHA
The fetus receives the required supply of DHA during the pregnancy from the mother’s placenta. DHA gets accumulated in the brain at a much faster rate in the second half of the pregnancy. The main source of DHA, once the baby is born is breast milk. It is very important for the mother to take DHA rich diet or supplements if required, for a baby’s healthy brain development. Consult a doctor before taking any supplements. In case you are not able to breastfeed your baby for some reason, you may choose formula milk enriched with DHA.
The biggest challenge when it comes to ensuring DHA rich food is that it is found largely in non-vegetarian sources. Large amounts of DHA are present in fish oil and fatty fish like salmon, sardines, herring, and meat oil, and eggs. When the child starts taking in solid foods, you can feed them these foods to restore DHA.
The type of omega-3 fatty acid found in plant-based sources is ALA i.e. Alpha-Linolenic acid that is not active in the body and needs to be converted into EPA and DHA to provide health benefits. EPA or eicosapentaenoic acid is another type of omega acid that can reduce symptoms of depression and help fight inflammation in your body.
If you are a vegetarian, it is important to eat a diet full of sources like chia seeds, brussels sprouts, algal oil, hemp seeds, walnuts, flaxseeds and perilla oil to meet your omega-3 needs.
How Much DHA Does Your Child Need?
|Age||Recommended Daily Quantity|
|0-6 months||The Mother’s diet should include an average daily intake of 200-300 mg DHA to guarantee a sufficient concentration of DHA in breast milk for babies.|
|6-24 months||10-12 mg/kg of body weight|
|2-4 years||EPA + DHA: 100-150 mg|
|4-6 years||EPA + DHA: 150-200 mg|
|6-10 years||EPA + DHA: 200-250 mg|
DHA is directly involved in brain functioning and development which makes it an essential part of your child’s diet and yours too if you are a pregnant woman or a lactating mother.
Also read: DHA – Is It Must For Your Baby?
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