Omega 3 Fatty Acids and Breastfeeding: Fish, Nuts, Oils, and Supplements

Fish Oil Omega 3Omega 3 fatty acids (ALA, DHA, EPA) are essential fatty acids required to maintain the health of the body including maintaining normal metabolism. In addition to keeping the body in working order, omega 3 is also beneficial for a number of other health concerns. Some of the benefits of omega 3 fatty acids include lower the levels of triglycerides in the blood, lowering the overall risk of death from heart disease, reducing the stiffness and joint pain of rheumatoid arthritis, reducing depression, and possibly protecting against Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Omega 3 fatty acids, specifically DHA, are also essential for the visual and neurological development of babies.

Although some infant formulas claim to contain DHA, the best source of omega 3 fatty acids for young babies is breast milk. Like many other nutrients, omega 3 passes from the mother to the baby through her milk. As a breastfeeding mother, I am very concerned about my daughter getting enough omega 3. I want her to get enough DHA so that her brain and eyes develop properly. Thus, I must make sure that I am getting enough omega 3 fatty acids in my diet.

Fish such as cold water oily fish including salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, and sardines as well as bluefish, sturgeon, lake trout, and tuna are an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids. Unfortunately, heavy metal poisoning from the mercury in fish is a big concern. When I was pregnant, I was very cautious about the type and amount of fish that I ate so that I would not harm my unborn baby. Now that I am breastfeeding, I am still concerned about mercury in fish. Furthermore, I am not a huge fan of fish. I just do not like the taste, so I do not really eat a lot of fish in my diet.

Other good food sources of omega 3 fatty acids include walnuts, flax and flaxseed oil, canola oil, olive oil, and soybean oil. When I cook, I use a fair amount of canola and olive oil. (I even give my dog a little olive oil with his dinner every now and then.) However, I have just finished losing all the weight that I had gained while pregnant. Nuts and oils are high in calories, so I have to be careful about not eating too many and packing on the pounds. Furthermore, I am not sure if I am still allergic to walnuts, so nuts as a source of omega 3 are still an unknown for me.

Finally, when all else fails, supplements are another source of omega 3 fatty acids. Prior to conceiving my daughter, my daily vitamin regimen included an omega 3 with DHA and EPA supplement. Now that I am breastfeeding, I have continued to take an omega 3 supplement, most recently a krill oil supplement. Other omega 3 supplements include fish oil and algae oil.

Omega 3 fatty acids are so important to the health and development of babies. As a breastfeeding mother, I am doing my best to increase my intake of omega 3 to ensure that my daughter gets as much of the nutrient that she needs to grow big and strong. Thus, I am trying to eat more fish while continuing to cook with healthy oils and to take a daily omega 3 supplement.

Did you worry about getting enough omega 3 while breastfeeding? How did you ensure that your baby got enough DHA for proper brain and eye development?


How can a nursing mother increase her omega-3 fatty acids?:
Omega-3 fatty acids and breast milk:
Omega-3 fatty acids: Fact sheet:

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Heather Johnson

Heather Johnson is a mother, wife, writer, librarian, and linguist. She earned a BA in English studies with a minor in creative writing from Illinois State University in May 2007, an MS in library and information science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in May 2009, and an MS in English studies with an emphasis in linguistics at Illinois State University in December 2011.

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