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Should Babies Eat Fish?

Sure, it's an untraditional baby food, but you'll be surprised by the brain-building goodness packed inside.

As a pediatrician and father of eight, I've realized how much children's health and behavior are affected--for better or worse--by what they eat. Of course, you already know how important a balanced diet full of whole grains, vegetables, fruit and lean proteins is, but one thing I always found missing from babies' diet was fish. Parents just didn't seem to think it--and other seafood--was a "baby" food.

Over the years, study after study has supported that omega-3 fatty acids--essential nutrients found in seafood--help promote infant brain development as well as boost immunity and vision. In fact, they're good for nearly every organ, even baby's super-soft skin. Even moms can benefit: The latest research shows that women who ate adequate amounts of omega-3s during pregnancy were less likely to experience postpartum depression. Read on for advice on introducing seafood into your child's diet.

Fish Talk
The lowdown on which seafood is tops--and why.

What types of fish are best for baby? Salmon is by far the best source of DHA*--the star of the omega-3 world. But almost all seafood contains omega-3s, so try to give your baby a variety of low-mercury fish.

How much fish should my baby eat? For babies just starting out on solids, I recommend about 2 ounces of wild salmon per week. After your baby is off formula or breast milk, give her 6 to 7 ounces per week. If you find it difficult to reach that amount, consider a supplement. Ask your doctor for a recommendation, or try my own DHA liquid, GoFish.

Should pregnant and breastfeeding women eat more fish? I recommend that pregnant and lactating women eat 6 ounces of wild salmon twice a week. In addition, make sure you talk to your doctor about consuming at least 650 milligrams of DHA daily from prenatal supplements.

* WHAT'S DHA? You see it on formula labels, but did you know that it's also abundant in fish? DHA, short for docosahexaenoic acid, is an omega-3 essential fatty acid vital for brain and eye development

Fish Food
Doubtful your baby will eat fish? Offer it early on, and it just may become a favorite food. Start with salmon, and try these tips:

Don't stress it. Blend the salmon flakes into pasta or mashed potatoes. Another option: HappyBaby's frozen meal of wild salmon, lentils and sweet potatoes.

Spread it. Puree cooked wild salmon (canned or steamed fresh) with lemon, olive oil and seasonings and then spread it on bread or crackers.

Strip it down. Older babies might enjoy "fish fingers." Dip inch-wide strips of deboned salmon fillets into beaten egg and coat them with a mixture of whole-wheat flour, whole-wheat bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese and a dash of salt. Bake for about eight minutes.

Mercury Meter

Some seafood has too much methylmercury, a toxin that can affect the brain. Here's a checklist of safe, low-mercury fish you can give baby: canned light tuna, cod, catfish, pollock and salmon. Other safe seafood includes shrimp, clams, crab and scallops. My favorite website for buying safe seafood is vitalchoice.com.

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