We investigated the relationship between maternal docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) levels at birth and toddler free-play attention in the second year. Toddler free-play attention was assessed at 12 and 18 months, and maternal erythrocyte (red-blood cell; RBC) phospholipid DHA (percentage of total fatty acids) was measured from mothers at delivery.

Overall, higher maternal DHA status at birth was associated with enhanced attentional functioning during the second year. Toddlers whose mothers had high DHA at birth exhibited more total looking and fewer episodes of inattention during free-play than did toddlers whose mothers had low DHA at birth. Analyses also provided further information on changes in attention during toddlerhood.

These findings are consistent with evidence suggesting a link between DHA and cognitive development in infancy and early childhood.