9 Facts and Myths About Nutrition and Wellness for Children
Along with plenty of hugs and kisses, optimal nutrition is key to supporting children’s overall health and well-being. Below we discuss some myths and facts about children’s wellness to help you ensure they get what they need.
“DHA is important for babies only during pregnancy.”
That’s a negative! DHA is necessary for the growth and maturation of the brain and retina of a fetus (baby in belly) and infant (baby outside of belly). So, rest assured that supplementing with DHA throughout pregnancy and beyond is worth the daily effort. Learn more about why babies need DHA.
“Omega-3 supplementation during pregnancy and childhood have important health implications later in life.”
You bet. This is why we often refer to omega-3s as ‘foundational nutrients’. Making great nutritional choices early on pays off both now and later. For example:
- Supplementation with EPA and DHA during pregnancy can help mitigate the incidence of allergies and asthma in later childhood.
- EPA and DHA can promote attention and reduce symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsiveness in childhood and adolescence.
- Higher levels of omega-3s during gestation and later development are linked to greater cognitive performance across childhood.
“DHA supports the growth and development of an infant’s brain and retina.”
Sure thing. Decades of research studies indicate that DHA is significant for baby’s brain and eye development. Simply put, it’s an important building block for both. A daily dose of 500 to 800 mg of EPA+DHA is supportive for most babies. Learn more about why babies need DHA.
“Fish oil supplements are a good way to help children get the proper amounts of omega-3s.”
We can all benefit from a little extra nutritional help here and there, and small children with limited diets or picky eating habits are certainly no exception. Although nutrients from food are always preferable, it’s difficult for many people to eat the recommended fish intake per week. Supplementation serves as a reliable and convenient way of getting enough EPA and DHA. Their growing bodies will thank us later. Learn more about the benefits of omega-3s for kids.
“Bacteria are bad, especially for children.”
Not all of them. After all, the human body is home to roughly 40 trillion bacterial cells and other microscopic organisms (aka microbes) that are quite useful and don’t cause disease. A wide variety of microbes live on the skin and in the nose, mouth, and urogenital tract, but the most diverse and abundant population of microbes live in the gut.
Probiotic foods and supplements can help establish a healthy gut microbiota that can help shape children’s immune and digestive health across their lifespan. Learn more about probiotics and infants.
“Probiotics can benefit infants and children.”
You got it! A growing literature finds that probiotics are a safe and effective way to support a healthy gut microbiota during early development. Studies show that regularly incorporating probiotic foods or supplements into a child’s diet can:
- Decrease the need for antibiotic treatments in children attending daycare
- Promote a healthy immune response in babies delivered via cesarean section
- Ameliorate symptoms of antibiotic-associated gastrointestinal distress
- Support the immune health of infants at “high risk” for allergies and skin dysfunctions
- Promote overall gastrointestinal health and function
- Reduce crying time and other symptoms related to colic
“Vitamin D helps to maintain healthy bone density in infants and toddlers.”
Indeed! And in addition to its significant benefits for bone health, vitamin D can help regulate babies’ immune and respiratory functions. Experts recommend that infants receive vitamin D supplementation beginning shortly after birth. Risk factors for vitamin D deficiency in infants include:
- limited sun exposure
- low maternal vitamin D levels during pregnancy
“If your child doesn’t meet a developmental milestone you should call the pediatrician ASAP.”
Not so fast. Before you place what is most likely an unnecessary call, remember that the rate in which children reach developmental milestones can vary depending on environment and personality. Keep in mind that:
- Early development is a dynamic period of growth and change, and children develop along their own trajectory.
- Developmental changes are rooted in biology, but many are shaped by the environment, and thus are subject to variability.
- Milestones are based on averages, whereas your child is a unique individual.
“Developmental milestones for children often vary.”
They sure do! Developmental milestones can be useful but are not a perfect science. They are based on the average age children acquire new behaviors and don’t account for how biological and environmental factors affect a child’s developmental trajectory. Remember your child is a unique individual, not a scale. Learn more about your child’s developmental milestones.