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When we are pregnant, we take such good care of our bodies and then suddenly the excitement and workload of bringing home a new baby overwhelms our life and being. It is easy to forget about your own physical, emotional and nutritional needs during these very important first weeks.
Many new mums want to do it all and BE it all! Some seem to succeed and some don’t. Eventually fatigue, confusion, overwhelm and utter exhaustion enter your daily life and it is easy to forget about the basic things you can do to help yourself.
It’s easy to forget that magical word docosahexaenoic acid!
Ok, ok, as a new parent, you may have trouble remembering what you had for breakfast, so don’t bother trying to memorise it… but maybe this means you actually need some docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) in your diet! These are long chain fatty acids also known as omega-3 fats.
Our bodies need omega-3s for several reasons. Healthy arteries, a strong heart and keeping the immune system resilient to name a few… But here’s the exciting bit… The most significant role omega-3 fats play, may be in the BRAIN! It is thought that the omega-3s feed the brain, nourish the nerves and make membranes more resilient and open to transmission of neurotransmitters. Omega-3s are especially important in the early and later years of life- and for pregnant women. These fats have to be found in our diets as they cannot be produced by the body.
Fun Fact 1: Did you know that your baby’s brain will grow triple its original size in the first year of life outside the womb? Holy guacamole! But more about avocados later…
So what is the best nourishment for this growing machine hidden inside your beautiful baby’s head? We can find it in breast milk, flax seed, pumpkin seeds, walnut, eggs and oily cold-water fish such as salmon, tuna or cod.
The most obvious way to get your fill of fishy omega-3 goodness is via the food you eat. If you can get your hands on some good fish once or twice a week, then that is optimal. In addition to omega-3s, fish is also high in protein and other vitamins and minerals. You can find two yummy recipes: for mumma here and baby here.
Baby’s first year is a great time to enrich the diet with the right kind of fat. Mother Nature is a clever woman and 50% of the calorie count in mother’s milk is fat. If not breast-feeding, baby formula is always fortified with good fats to emulate nature’s milk. When it is time for baby to start on solid foods, a great first fatty food is avocado, complete with its own protective packaging. The yolk of a boiled egg is also a great source of goodness (if your baby can tolerate it) and it is a complete protein. WOW! Another of nature’s gifts in its own complete packaging.
Fun Fact 2: Women who have adequate amounts of DHA in their system have significantly less chance of developing postnatal depression.
Not only do the omega-3s from cod liver oil help your baby while growing in your belly, but they help you too! Therefore, try to include fish in your weekly diet.
So how can I get fishy with it if I don’t eat fish regularly?
Short answer is: A high quality cod-liver oil. In our family, we prefer the Nordic Naturals brand of cod liver oil. They come in a baby range, an infant range, and pre and postnatal range. They are rigorously quality tested, and use sustainable fishing practices. Another high quality brand of fermented cod liver oil is by Greener Pastures.
If you start your baby on the oil when s/he starts solid food, they will become accustomed to the taste and snaffle it down. We have been giving little M daily squirts of cod liver oil from birth and he has taken to it like a fish to water! If however, you are suspicious of fish allergies, introduce it later. Personally, I don’t love the fishy taste of cod liver oil so I take it in capsule form.
For the lovely vegans out there, this topic is a tough one. Some plants have ‘short chain’ omega-3s (ALAs) and although they are good for general health, the ‘long chain’ omega-3s found in oily fish are more potent and more easily absorbed. We love Udo’s Oil though, which is a great plant-based ethically produced, perfect blend of Omegas 3, 6 & 9 that you can glug daily or simply add to your salad dressings. English walnuts, flax seed and chia seed are some other good plant based starters.