Pregnancy and lactation are nutritionally demanding times for the pregnant and lactating mother. During pregnancy, the mother not only has to maintain her own body but also needs to support a rapidly developing fetus, whereas the following parturition the mother must support copious milk production and loss of significant amounts of nutrients via the milk.
The human body has an amazing ability to adjust to such increased demands by up-regulating nutrient intake and increasing the efficiency of nutrient absorption and utilisation. However, despite such physiological adaptations, it is not always possible to meet the additional demands of all required nutrients and consumption of specially formulated mother formulae may be beneficial in meeting requirements.
Some companies produce a mother formula that covers both pregnancy and lactation. However, pregnancy and lactation are quite different physiological states and have different nutrient requirements. There are many small and sometimes more significant differences in requirements (RDI) for pregnancy and lactation.
It is important to keep in mind that with any mother formula its ingredients may affect both the mother and the fetus/infant.
LA (Linoleic acid; omega-6)
Essential fatty acid (i.e. must be in diet). The precursor of ARA. As such supports brain development in the fetus.
ALA (α-Linolenic acid; omega-3)
Essential fatty acid (i.e. must be in diet). The precursor of DHA. As such supports brain development in the fetus.
DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid; omega-3)
In fetus. An essential component of cell membranes, esp. in brain and retina cells. Important in brain development. Accumulates in the brain at high levels in 2nd half of pregnancy and early infancy. May increase IQ at later age Important in vision (retina) development. Improved hand-eye coordination at 2.5 years of age. May lower blood pressure at a later age. Can be made endogenously from LA In mother: May slightly increase gestation length. May reduce the risk of pre-term deliveries. May lower chance of post-natal depression.
ARA (AA, Arachidonic acid; omega-6)
Accumulates in the brain at high levels in 2nd half of pregnancy and early infancy. Important in brain development. Accumulates in the brain at high levels in 2nd half of pregnancy and early infancy. May lower blood pressure at a later age. Can be made endogenously from ALA Precursor of anti-inflammatory pathways.
SA (Sialic acid)
Non-carbon sugars that are structural and functional components of brain gangliosides. Levels in the brain more than 15-500 times higher than in other tissues. May be involved in brain structure and function. SA may be involved in neural signalling. May be involved in memory formation. Occurs naturally in human milk. Can be made endogenously from glucose. Neural cell membranes contain 20-fold higher SA levels. SA in milk may play a role in protection against infection and help with immune function.