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Flax Oil for Infants

By Jill Corleone, RDN, LD

Babies need fat in their diet for not only growth but brain development too. While flax oil is a healthy source of fat and used as food, many people take it as a supplement to up their intake of essential fatty acids. When it comes to adding foods like this to your baby's diet, it's important to consult your pediatrician to discuss benefits and safety concerns.

Flax Oil Nutrition

Flax oil is not a significant source of any vitamin or mineral, but it is high in calories and fat. One tablespoon of the oil contains 120 calories and 14 grams of fat. Flax oil, however, is a rich source of alpha linoleic acid, or ALA, which is an omega-3 fatty acid that the body converts to eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid. One tablespoon of flax oil contains 7 grams of ALA.

ALA and Baby's Health

Breast milk contains a small amount of ALA. Infant formulas are also fortified with the essential fat. A 2005 review study published in Lipids investigated the effects of infant formula fortified with ALA on growth and development in both term and preterm babies. The study found that the ALA improved weight gain in term infants but seemed to have no beneficial effects on weight gain in preterm infants or overall development. The authors of this study recommend further research.

Should You Add Flax?

While infant feeding guidelines say it's OK to offer your baby a wide variety of fats, including coconut oil, butter, ghee, sunflower oil and olive oil, there are no specific recommendations regarding flax oil. In fact, the University of Maryland Medical Center suggests that you consult your pediatrician to discuss the use of flax oil before adding it to your baby's diet.

What to Watch Out For

If you're given the OK by your doctor to add flax to your baby's diet, it's important to follow the same recommendations that you did when you introduced any new food to your baby to assess for tolerance and allergies, which means not introducing any other new food while offering the flax oil. This is especially important if you have a family history of food allergies. Signs to watch out for include rash, gas, fussiness, diarrhea or vomiting.

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