Breastfeeding moms and their babies can reap many benefits from fish oil. The Omega-3 fats, such as DHA, in fish and fish oil supplements are carried to your baby through your breast milk and may potentially sharpen your baby’s fine motor skills, boost your memory and even elevate your mood, reports “Parenting” magazine.
Benefits for Your Baby
Your baby’s brain grows briskly during his or her first year, actually tripling in size. So when you breastfeed you should supplement your diet with brain-augmenting nutrients, particularly the Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil, says pediatrician Dr. William Sears. These essential fatty acids — transferred to your child through your breast milk — are beneficial for nearly every part of your baby’s body, from the eyes to the skin to the nervous system.
Benefits for You
The Omega-3s in fish oil also provide benefits for you: not only are they heart-healthy fats, but also they may boost your mood. According to La Leche League International (LLLI) – an organization that provides information and support to breastfeeding mothers – depressed women frequently have deficiencies in Omega-3s.
If you don’t eat enough fish to get a proper amount of Omega-3s, you may want to take fish oil supplements. Omega-3 supplements made from fish body oils are considered safe for nursing moms, according to BabyCenter. However, when you’re breastfeeding you should shun cod liver oil supplements: they can contain an overabundance of vitamins A and D, which can be dangerous for your baby.
Choosing a Supplement
Select a supplement in 300- or 500-mg doses so that you only have to take a few capsules each day to meet the recommended dose of 900- to 1,000-mg, suggests BabyCenter. Additionally, the capsules may cause gas, bloating or unpleasant fishy burps. Freeze the pills before swallowing, take them with a meal, spread them throughout your day or opt for a liquid supplement instead.
Dangerous toxins, like mercury, are certainly found in some species of fish, and can potentially be detrimental for breastfeeding women, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, mercury builds more in fish meat than in fish oil; the supplements contain almost no such contaminants. The Mayo Clinic cautions, though, that The U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t closely standardize supplements: “There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary.”
Alternative Sources of Omega-3 Fats
Flaxseed, walnuts and canola oil are all good sources of the fatty acid ALA, but do not provide the health benefits of DHA and EPA, the essential fatty acids found in fish oils. Your local supermarket may carry DHA-fortified foods, including milk or yogurt, reports BabyCenter. If you are a vegetarian, you can give find DHA supplements made from algae.
- Parenting: The Benefits of Fish Oil
- Ask Dr. Sears: DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)
- La Leche League International: Treatment Options for Depressed Breastfeeding Mothers: Allopathic, Alternative, and Lifestyle Changes
- BabyCenter: Best foods for new moms: Mood boosters
- Mayo Clinic: Omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil, alpha-linolenic acid