DHA, docosahexaenoic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid, is an essential nutrient for healthy brain development during infancy and babies' growth before birth.
Although the use of fish oil supplements are increasing in the U.S. and Canada, pregnant and lactating women here are still lacking DHA in their diets. According to a survey published in 2007, lactating women in the U.S. and Canada have the lowest levels of DHA in their breast milk. For women in the United States, it's 0.17 and in Canada, it's 0.17;lower than levels found in Australia, Chili, Japan, China, Mexico, the Philippines, Spain and Scandinavian countries.
Higher DHA levels during fetal development, at birth and during infancy help improve infant development, with improved coordination, visual acuity and intelligence scores. A clinical trial recently found that supplementing women with 2.2 grams DHA and 1.1 grams EPA from 20-week gestation until delivery, improved breast milk DHA in the diet of many American and Canadian women.
Brenna and others. "Docosohexaenoic and arachidonic acid concentrations in human breast milk worldwide." Am J Clin Nutr., 2007;85:1457-64.
Dunstan and others. "The effects of fish oil supplementation in pregnancy on breast milk fatty acid composition over the course of lactation: a randomized controlled trial." Pediat Res. 2007;62(6):689-94.