FRIDAY, July 16, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- A nutritional compound present in the bodies of pregnant women plays a crucial role in developing cognitive skills and attention spans in infants, says a University of Kansas study.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an essential fatty acid that helps in the development of infants, particularly in the eyes and the brain.
Researchers found mothers with higher blood levels of DHA gave birth to infants who displayed more mature forms of attention. The infants were less distractible during play and tended to be more engaged over time with toys.
The findings appear in the current issue of Child Development.
DHA is found naturally in breast milk and has recently been added to some commercial infant formulas. Other research indicates postnatal DHA improves vision and some cognitive functions in infants and toddlers.
The United States Department of Agriculture has more about nutrition during pregnancy.