Fish oil has gotten a lot of press as a good supplement for adults, but what about babies? As parents, we want to make sure our children are eating foods that are rich in vitamins and nutrients and supporting a healthy growth and development. While we know fruits and vegetables are great for our children, we want to also make sure they are eating healthy meats.
Fish is a very healthy meat, but what if our child doesn’t like the taste? Is it okay for them to have fish oil or fish oil supplements? Fish is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for a child’s brain and eye development. It is also low in saturated fat and high in protein, vitamin D and other important nutrients.
Omega-3s are known to relieve pain and inflammation, provide better brain function and higher intelligence, provide a higher sense of self-esteem, create a lower incidence of childhood disorders, have a positive effect on heart disease, protect against heart attack and stroke and reduce menstrual pain.
Can I Give My Baby Fish Oil? Answer: Check Your Family’s Allergy History
The right time to introduce fish to a child’s diet depends on your family’s history of food allergies. Fish is one of the top eight allergenic foods, and there are certain ages that it’s safer for children to consume.
If there is not a history of food allergies in your family, fish can be introduced to your child around the six-month mark. If allergies do run in your family, it is best to wait until your child is three before introducing it.
Food Allergy Concerns
After the initial introduction, watch for signs of a food allergy. It is recommended to wait at least three days before introducing another “new” food to your child. Signs of an allergic reaction include wheezing; abdominal cramping; swelling of the tongue, lips and face; skin rash; vomiting; and diarrhea. Allergy symptoms vary from child to child and can be moderate to severe. If you notice mild symptoms, call your child’s doctor right away. If your baby seems to be having trouble breathing, or is showing signs or symptoms that are sever in nature, call 911 immediately.
If you have given your child fish and there has not been any allergic reaction, make it a normal part of their diet. The FDA/EDP advisory says it is okay to serve your child two child-size servings of fish per week. A child-size serving is 1 ounce of fish for one and two year olds, 1.5 ounces for children ages three to six; and 2 ounces for a child over six.
As an Alternative to Fish
If your child does not like fish, you can make sure they get the benefits of it from fish oils and fish oil supplements. Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, which is important to your child’s brain and eye development. Fish that come from cold water sources contain the highest amounts of omega-3s.
It is always best if your child gets his or her nutrients from food. But most kids do not eat enough fish to give them a healthy amount of omega-3s.
Omega 3 and Your Baby
If your child is not eating at least one serving of fish per week, they will need to consume other foods that are rich in omega-3s. Fish sticks and canned tuna are low in mercury but are not good sources of omega-3s. Albacore tuna has a higher dose of omega-3s, but it is higher in mercury. Many foods like eggs, milk, juice, yogurt and bread are fortified with omega-3s.
Omega-3s contain DHA and EPA, important fatty acids. Since fish oil supplements contain omega-3s, it contains these healthy fatty acids. Fish oil supplements are generally mercury free. Fish oil supplements can have a fishy taste, so your child may not like them. But they do come in liquid, soft chews and soft gel form. Some are even flavored to try and reduce the fishy taste.
Family History Matters
Remember, the right time to start introducing fish and fish oils to your child depends on your family’s history of food allergies. Depending on this history, your child can start fish and fish oils between six months and two years old. While getting the essential nutrients in fish is best if received from the food itself, fish oil supplements are perfectly fine for your child. Before starting fish oil supplements, it is best to consult with your child’s doctor to find out how much and how often fish oils should be consumed. He or she knows your child best and will be able to discuss this topic more thoroughly.