DHA is an omega 3 fatty acid with some really important jobs in the body, especially for growing babes. Here’s what you need to know about DHA and what to consider with plant-based babes.
If you recently saw our video on Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) needs during pregnancy, then you already know how important this omega 3 fatty acid is to your baby’s brain and eye development. DHA is the primary fatty acid in the brain, and as such has a lot of big jobs in baby’s cognitive development.
And perhaps not surprisingly, DHA needs continue after pregnancy. Infancy and early childhood are times of rapid brain growth. DHA accrual continues throughout the first two years of life, making this a super critical period for getting enough omega 3 fat.
Studies in kids have shown that DHA supports normal IQ and visuo-spacial learning and memory. DHA supports the development of your baby’s intelligence and ability to learn, remember, and perform tasks.
Furthermore, low blood levels of long chain omega 3 fats have been reported in kids with developmental and behavioral disorders, such as ADHD, dyslexia, and dyspraxia, a coordination disorder in kids.
While there’s no firm consensus on DHA dosing recommendations for children, the World Health Organization recommends the following amounts of DHA and EPA:
- 100-150 mg per day for kids between the ages of 2-4 years
- 150-200 mg per day for kids ages 4-6 years
- 200-250 mg per day for kids 6-10 years
For children who eat fish and seafood – the primary sources of DHA in the diet – these amounts can easily be met. Many kids eat things like salmon or tuna, which are good sources of DHA.
However, fully plant-based kids who eat no animal products or seafood have no source of preformed DHA through the food they eat alone.
Some good news is that your body is able to make DHA from the plant-based omega 3 fatty acid ALA. However, the conversion rate is very low and not very efficient. Some experts have questioned if ALA is enough for us to attain optimal levels of DHA.
Additionally, although infants have the capacity to make some DHA from ALA on their own, most research indicates that they rely primarily on maternal delivery of *preformed* DHA, which they can get from breast milk or fortified formula.
This is why groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that pregnant and breastfeeding women supplement with DHA. We also think this is a good idea for plant-based kids.
You’ve probably seen fish oil supplements, which are widely available and are certainly one way to add DHA to the diet.
For plant-based kids, there’s another option! Many brands have started making algae-based DHA oil, a plant-friendly option for this important omega 3 fat.
And if you think about it, microalgae is really the original source of DHA – not fish. The only reason fish is such a good source of DHA is because they eat algae and it then accumulates in their tissues over time. Algae oil is basically cutting out the middle man!
Our favorite supplement for kids is Nordic Naturals Vegetarian Baby DHA. It’s made from microalgae and is easy to add to food and drinks, to provide your baby with a daily dose of this important fatty acid.
Some of the ways we use it at home include:
- Putting a few drops in breast milk or formula
- In soy milk or smoothies for older kids
- Mixed into baby oatmeal, yogurt, or applesauce
We can guess your next question: does it have a fishy smell and taste? We’re so glad to tell you NO, as we know that this is essential for kids, especially if you have a picky eater.
Nordic Naturals also makes a baby DHA made from fish oil if your baby is not vegetarian. This is another great option for DHA without concern for harmful substances commonly found in fish itself, like heavy metals and environmental toxins.
For your confidence, Nordic Naturals uses third party testing to ensure the purity of their supplements. We think it’s a great choice!
If you missed our previous video on DHA needs during pregnancy, be sure to check that out!
I have the vegan Nordic naturals DHA, but did think it smelled extremely fishy. I put the recommended dosage amount in a bottle of breastmilk and the smell finally went away after countless sanitation and cleaning with vinegar. If you find a plant based option that isn’t stinky please do share!
Thanks Clarissa! We’ve heard this from a few people, though we haven’t experienced a “fishy” smell/odor with the Nordic. I usually give it straight out of the dropper to my son.
Yes, I bought this too and it was awful. I used to put it in her smoothie and the fish taste on the entire smoothie was very overpowering.
Hello! Great post!
I’m using a Vegan DHA +EPA from Dr. Furhman. This one doesn’t have any smell and has a lemon taste.
I think this supplement Is an excellent option as well. Any thoughts?
Yes! That’s a great one.
Thanks so much for all the helpful info you post!! Should I give this supplement to my EBF 6 month old? If so how much? Or should I take it (I’m vegan) and then start him when he’s 1 year and weaned? Thank you!
Up to you! You can take it while breastfeeding and then give it to him when you stop, that’s typically what we recommend for breastfeeding mama’s. We really like their new prenatal vegan DHA for adults in a pill form.
Although my wife supplements dha and our baby is only 9 months, if not vegan, we would probably be feeding our baby a few servings of fish per week thus increasing dietary dha content. Can we replicate this by providing a few servings of a dha supplement per week?
Hi Mike, yes– eating fatty fish 2x a week is equivalent to taking DHA supplements. So, therefore if you aren’t eating fish then we recommend DHA supplementation. If your wife is breastfeeding, then she can take DHA supplements which will be passed onto baby. After weaned, baby can take their own.
Do you have a recommendation for a supplements for kids?
We use the Nordic Naturals vegan DHA drops for our kids– but there are several out there.
Thank you for posting this it’s very helpful information! I have a two and a four year old. Can I give them both 150 mg? How many milliliters of the Nordic Naturals Baby DHA would I need to give them, so that they get 150 mg per day?
I am trying Garden Of Life baby DHA however I’m not sure if the dose is too high. 1ml a day is 240mg but the bottle says to give him 1.5ml (360mg) daily based on 21-25lbs. Is there any danger to him getting more than the RDA?
Hi Dawn, 360mg a day is likely fine but you can go lower if you’d like. Some supplements have higher than RDA dose recommendations and we prefer to dose based on weight. The good news is that a lower amount will also last longer as DHA supplements tend to be more expensive.
Hey there thankyou for the article I have 16 month old twins how much dosage do you reccomend for dha and epa algae supplement ? I can’t afford the nordic naturals one as in nz and have to give daily to two children this is a cheaper option that I use can I give it to my girls? It doesn’t say weather or not children can have it? It’s the natures way strawberry and orange flavoured algae dha 200 mill liquid ?
Thankyou ! 😀
Hi! We recommend basing it off weight– 15-20 mg/kg of body weight.
And, if that’s too confusing– then 200 mg of DHA will be fine!
Hi there I use the natures way orange, strawberry flavoured 500mg liquid of dha, epa algae oil (one teaspoon) can I give this to my 1.5 year olds in a smaller dosage ? If so what kind of dosage ? I was thinking 1/4 or 1/2 a teaspoon ?
Thankyou !! 🙂