According to researchers from the University of Connecticut, newborns whose mothers consumed adequate amounts of a particular fatty acid during the last three months of pregnancy exhibit healthier sleep patterns than others.
The amount of time babies spend in different stages of sleep may indicate whether they are experiencing normal brain development. Consequently, mothers who get enough of the fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in their diets may also be helping their babies' mental functioning.
DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid that appears to boost brain development. Infants accumulate fatty acids in their brains during the last 3 months in the womb and the first few months outside it. The fatty acids are found in cold-water fish and fish oils.
This study is not the first to suggest a link between babies' DHA intake and their brain development. Previous research demonstrated that babies who receive breast milk, which contains DHA, exhibit more mature brain development than their formula-fed peers. Other studies have also suggested that infants who get enough DHA early in life may have a reduced risk of later heart disease.
The researchers found that more babies of mothers with high levels of DHA in their blood showed mature sleeping patterns, compared to babies whose mothers consumed less of the fatty acid.
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