DHA in the Postpartum Period
In a newborn, the most important source of DHA is the mother's milk, but the amount of this essential nutrient is dependent upon maternal intake during pregnancy and the amount in her stores accumulated prior to pregnancy.
Docosahexaenoic acid is important for brain functioning in infants, and the level of DHA in the brain is dependent on dietary intake. DHA continues to be stored for up to 10 months in breastfed infants and to a lesser extent in formula-fed babies. Such knowledge supports the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation that infants should be breastfed for at least one year. The World Health Organization strongly recommends that full-term infants receive 20 mg of DHA per kilogram of body weight per day for optimal brain and retinal growth.
For those women who are unable to breastfeed or choose not to breastfeed, most infant formulas are fortified with DHA. Research funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development found that infants fed formula with DHA at the levels recommended by the World Health Organization scored approximately seven points higher on a 100-point scale on a test of mental development at 18 months compared to infants fed the control formula without added DHA. The study also found that infants fed formula with DHA at these levels had improved visual acuity during the first year. Enfamil LIPIL was the first infant formula supplemented with DHA to be introduced in the United States.