Infancy is the second most vital milestone for an individual in terms of nutrition, first being pregnancy. Since the infant relies on mother’s milk for all its nutrition for the first 6 months of life, it is essential to make it rich and nourishing for the baby to enable him/ her to achieve optimum growth and development. Right nutrition can have a positive impact on an infant’s health & growth.
One of the important nutrients for the developing infant is fats. Fats play an important role in protecting vital organs, nurturing the skin, building hormones and enhancing immunity amongst many others.
Here are a few guidelines on choosing the right type and quantity of fats for nursing mothers:
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Alpha-linoleic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, are two types of omega-3 fatty acids that are crucial for a baby’s development. Alpha-linoleic acid helps improve infant’s growth and development.
DHA has been shown to boost development of an infant’s brain and the retina of the eye and is linked to improving the immune system.
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in walnuts, soybeans, flax seeds and fatty fish, such as salmon, sardines, halibut and tuna.
The Institute of Medicine’s adequate intake of omega-3 fatty acids for nursing moms is 1.3 grams per day, equivalent to one to two servings of fish per week.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns nursing mothers to avoid shark, mackerel, swordfish and tilefish due to their high mercury content.
Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Linoleic acid and arachidonic acid, or ARA, are two types of omega-6 fatty acids that baby needs.
Linoleic acid helps baby grow, and ARA works with DHA in the brain for proper development.
Omega-6 fatty acids are found in vegetable oils and seeds.
Most individuals consume plenty of omega-6 fatty acids — and some consume too much.
The Institute of Medicine lists 13 grams per day as an adequate intake of omega-6 fatty acids, equivalent to about a tablespoon of vegetable oil.
Monounsaturated fats have been shown to lower cholesterol and may reduce your risk for heart disease.
They also may improve blood sugar control, which helps us stay healthier
Healthy fats in diet also allows our body to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Baby needs these vitamins for healthy vision, bones, skin and blood clotting.
Monounsaturated fats are found in olive, peanut and canola oils; poultry; avocados; nuts and seeds.
Tips for Choosing Healthy Fats
Reading food labels will help you choose healthy fats while you are breastfeeding.
Avoid foods that contain saturated or trans fats or that list hydrogenated fats in the ingredient list.
Many processed foods, fried foods, desserts and snack foods, such as chips and crackers, contain higher levels of these types of fat.
Use small amounts of olive, canola or other vegetable oils in cooking.
Eat fish once or twice a week.
Avocados also contain healthy fats and can be consumed in moderation as part of a healthy diet.
It is important to track an infant’s health during his/ her growth and ensure that all steps are taken to ensure proper health of an infant. eKincare – your personal health manager can help you store electronic medical records, wherein you can store medical records of not just the infant and the mother, but of the entire family and keep track of the vital health indicators. Right tracking can be a great facilitator in helping you keep your child healthy.
Dr Pooja Chhawcharia is the Senior Nutritionist at eKincare with over 7 years of experience in Nutrition education, diet counseling and research. She is a Registered Dietician with the Indian Dietetic Association and Certified Diabetes Educator recognized by the International Diabetes federation . She is also interested in ancillary sciences such as Yoga and Naturopathy.