During pregnancy, moms-to-be have to eat at least three times daily to boost their baby's health. Research has shown mothers who ate fish two to three times weekly during pregnancy helped baby reach milestones in development after birth more quickly. These developmental milestones included, but were not limited to, brain development, hand/eye coordination, better eyesight, better sleeping patterns and better learning development.
Omega-3s found in fish have been linked to better brain development (cognitive function) and better eyesight. These same omega-3s have also been found to impact sleep/wake patterns in infants. Specifically, if the mother has high levels of DHA during pregnancy, the infants were significantly quieter, had less active sleep and less sleep/wake transition issues. In general, they just slept better!
These benefits begin during pregnancy and can be furthered through continuing fish intakes after delivery and during breastfeeding. Research has shown nursing moms who maintained eating fish two to three times weekly have children with better eyesight, higher IQ scores and who do better in school.
So why are moms-to-be missing out on vital health boosts for baby? Confusion and misunderstanding about what is safe and what is not during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Experts recommend about 12 ounces of fish weekly during pregnancy and breastfeeding (two to three servings). Eat a variety of fish. There are multiple safe options, so mix it up! Remember, up to 6 ounces can be albacore tuna to help meet your weekly needs. The fish you want to avoid during pregnancy are shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tile fish.
Are you a seafood lover? If so, no worries! Shrimp, scallops, crab and clams are on the safe for moms-to-be list. Mix these up with servings of salmon, albacore tuna, Pollock, cod, tilapia or catfish to give your child a jump start on cognitive and developmental needs along with better eyesight. Does this include sushi? As long as it is not raw fish or one of the aforementioned fish on the "no list," then your sushi is safe to eat.
When you're pregnant, you and your baby are what you eat. Choosing the right foods can make a big difference in your baby's growth and health. Aim to eat a variety of nutrient-rich foods. This means foods that are full of vitamins and minerals without being too high in calories. Fish contain some of the essential nutrients that will be needed — omega-3s, calcium, vitamin D and iron.
Dianna Richardson of the Health, Wellness & Nutrition Center in Jefferson City has served communities as a wellness practitioner for more than 20 years. She has her doctorate degree in naturopathy, a master's degree in health and wellness, a bachelor's degree in public health education and is a certified wellness specialist. Core to her practice has been the use of nutrition to enhance health and improve vitality.