What Is DHA in Baby Formula?

What Is DHA in Baby Formula?

We may earn commission from links featured in this post. Read more.

DHA is an ingredient that appears on so many baby formula labels. It’s also a supplement that many nutritionists, paediatricians, and health professionals are recommending. 

That’s why many parents want to know what is DHA in baby formula? What are its benefits? And what exactly is it used for? 

Read on to know the detailed answers to all these questions. 

What Does DHA Stand for?

DHA is an acronym that’s easy on the ear, and it’s short for the scientific name, that’s much harder to pronounce, docosahexaenoic acid. In simpler terms, this biochemical substance is basically a long-chain omega-3 fatty acid. We all know omega-3 to be good, right?

What Is DHA?

Fatty acids are the building blocks that aid in the synthesis of proteins, hormones, and various types of enzymes. 

DHA is present in all human cells, and it’s essential to the proper functioning of the eyes and the brain. It makes up around 90% of the Omega-3 fatty acids of the brain tissue, which is a huge deal. This valuable substance makes up around a quarter of the total fats in the brain. 

That is a huge presence of that fatty acid in such vital organs, and clearly, a person needs to get sufficient amounts of DHA to maintain brain health and functionality. 

This material is naturally present in breast milk but wasn’t always included in baby formula. Many believe that it’s responsible for developing brain function, cognitive skills, and visual acuity in babies.

As DHA is in breastmilk, and formula is effectively artificial breastmilk it needs to be there.

What Does DHA in Baby Formula Do?

DHA, which is an Omega-3 fatty acid, is among the essential fatty acids that assist in brain development and the neurological integrity of vision. It’s believed that DHA boosts brain function, especially, when babies get a sufficient amount of it early on. 

Omega-3 is available in breast milk in varying amounts. This depends on the mother’s diet, her metabolism, as well as, genetic and other factors. This is a consistent supply of DHA to the baby, which most specialists believe to be highly beneficial and advantageous. 

DHA wasn’t always present in baby formula. Recently, many brands added it to their mixes regardless of if it’s newborn, follow on or hungry baby milk in an attempt to make the formula more wholesome and nutritious and ‘closer to nature’. This is particularly important for mothers who can’t breastfeed due to any reason, and thus, depend fully on baby formula.   

Is There DHA in Breastmilk?

DHA is found in breastmilk, often in amounts large enough to cover the baby’s needs. The quantity varies from day to day, and there are clear differences in composition between one mother to the next. the DHA in formula never changes unless regardless of how much they’re fed.

This indicates that the amount of DHA is directly related to the mother’s diet, her general health, lifestyle, and other hereditary factors.

Since breastmilk is the best food for a baby, their substitutes need to be as close as possible in terms of ingredients.

Can DHA Be Found in Food? 

DHA is found in various foods, and it’s one of the main sources that mothers get their Omega-3. Some new moms take their DHA as a supplement, and that’s fine too. However, the natural form is often preferred to the synthetic one. 

Babies usually get their needs of DHA through their mother’s breastmilk. However, as soon as they grow sufficiently, they can get it directly from their own food. That is easily done by choosing food types rich in DHA. 

A paediatrician should always be consulted about the foods that a child is allowed to eat. Also, about the right time to introduce that food and how.  

Seafood has the highest content of DHA and Omega-3 fatty acids, especially, big fish that lives in the ocean. Shellfish are great sources too, and they’re filled with plenty of other essential nutrients. However, shellfish should not be fed to an infant as they are common allergens.

For those who don’t fancy seafood all that much, or get allergies when they eat it, there are some vegetarian sources that could be easier to add to the diet. 

Here are some of the best foods that constitute a good source of DHA: 

  • Salmon fish 
  • Mackerel fish 
  • Oysters 
  • Shrimp 
  • Sardines
  • Seaweed 
  • Algae 
  • Flax seeds
  • Hemp seeds
  • Chia seeds 
  • Walnuts 


DHA is one of the most important Omega-3 fatty acids. Recent studies showed that including it in the diet, or taking it as a supplement, is essential for brain, skin, and eye health. It’s also conducive to general wellbeing. 

Babies and infants need DHA just as adults do, and maybe even more. It helps their brains grow in a healthy manner, and might even boost their IQ. Breastmilk contains varying amounts of DHA, and recently, most baby formula brands added it too. 

There should be some caution though to stay below the recommended daily intake of DHA. Too much of a good thing could easily turn into an unsavoury matter. Thus, it’s wise to read the label, and give the child the right amount of DHA supplementation in the baby formula. 

If you just wondered what it stood for on the formula pack out of interest, I hope you ended up learning more than you bargained for.