Being a parent is one of life’s most rewarding roles, as well as one of its toughest. Often, we have to think 10 minutes and 10 years ahead, at the same time. We find ourselves poring over names for a child, researching local schools, and agonizing over what our children eat. We often start with so many perfect plans about how we’ll raise our children, and then we learn what every new parent ultimately learns: choose your battles wisely. As parents, we only have so much energy, and we need to spend it on the things that will actually make a difference in our kids’ lives. Nutrition is one battle truly worth fighting.
As a professional in the natural health industry, I sometimes know more than I’d like to about the health challenges facing children today. I’ve read the research and know how much early nutrition impacts lifelong health. Until children are adults, their nutrition is our job—and it’s a big job, considering that most children wouldn’t mind eating cereal, pizza, chicken tenders, and macaroni and cheese at every meal!
Healthy Nutrition Starts In the Womb
Even though childhood nutrition can be a constant challenge, there’s one time during a child’s life that we have complete control: pregnancy. When we are carrying our child, our nutrition is their nutrition. For better or worse, we have total control over their nutrient intake. And while pregnancy’s early developmental window is brief, it’s a crucial time for development that carries on into your child’s life as an adult. Research shows that under-nutrition during pregnancy results in physiological changes that can permanently shape a developing child’s anatomy, physiology, and metabolism in ways that can manifest decades later in adulthood. Early in the game of life is the best time to create a strong and stable foundation.
Many nutrients are important for proper prenatal development. That’s why pregnant women are reminded to eat a healthy, balanced diet and take a daily prenatal multivitamin. But some specific nutrients are difficult to find in adequate amounts, even in a healthy diet. One of those nutrients is omega-3 DHA. This essential fatty acid is a long-chain omega-3 fat that's abundant in many species of fish, especially cold-water fish. This tiny fatty acid packs powerful support for proper development of a child’s brain, eyes, and nervous system.*
The human brain is almost 60% fat, and 20% of the essential fat in the brain’s cerebral cortex is DHA alone. Our eyes have even higher concentrations of this essential fat. The brain, eyes, and nervous system are central to a child’s cognitive, social, and behavioral development. These systems are the command centers for speech, vision, and hearing. And all are part of healthy neurodevelopment, which is foundational to a child’s future. Proper neurodevelopment contributes to success in school, family, workplace, and society at large, throughout a person’s life.
DHA is also crucial for a pregnant mother. During the third trimester, when rapid fetal brain development begins, the mother’s DHA stores can drop if she isn’t consuming enough.* In fact, DHA is so essential to a healthy mom and baby that the American Pregnancy Association recommends it for pregnant women.* But they also caution pregnant women from eating too much fish due to contaminants like heavy metals. This is why fresh, pure fish oil can be a safe alternative source of DHA.
Vitamin D for Mom and Baby
Another nutrient important to a healthy pregnancy is vitamin D. Many pregnant women in the United States don’t get enough vitamin D, and several factors can contribute to deficiency, including:
- Excess weight
- Extended time indoors
- Reduced exposure to the sun
- Darker skin
Research quoted by the Vitamin D Council found that women who consumed adequate amounts of vitamin D every day during pregnancy were more likely to give birth without complications.* A mom’s daily intake of vitamin D also ensures that her baby is born with a good supply of this essential nutrient. Vitamin D has been recognized as supporting crucial actions such as:
- Healthy insulin levels*
- Healthy immune function*
- Healthy lung development*
These functions not only support the body systems directly listed here, but they support multiple other facets of fetal development as well. When metabolism, immunity and lung development are optimal, they create support for a variety of other developing systems. It’s easy to see why vitamin D is also essential to a strong foundation and a healthy future.*
But vitamin D isn’t just for babies. Research has shown that it supports a healthy mood in new moms.* Intake of vitamin D during pregnancy helps a new mom avoid a deficiency during the crucial months after birth, when mood can play a major role in her own well-being.* Vitamin D also supports a healthy inflammatory response.* When a woman has given birth, her body has a lot of repair work to do and it can use all the help it can get.
Being a pregnant woman or a new mom is challenging and we often feel pressure to do everything just right. Luckily, perfection is not required. But understanding the crucial role that nutrition plays in childhood—and beyond—is so important. We’ve all heard the saying, “you are what you eat.” During pregnancy, you are, in fact, what your mother eats.
A fetus has the monumental task of transforming from a single cell to a fully formed infant in just a matter of months. It’s our job to support our developing babies with the very best nutrients available. And while we’re at it, let’s support ourselves with those nutrients, too. Our babies need us to be ready to choose those childhood battles wisely!
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.