DHA in breastmilk

DHA in breastmilk
21 Feb 2018

It is widely accepted that breastmilk is the preferred source of nutrition for all babies. Mothers pass some of their own DHA, also known as docosahexaenoic acid, an important omega-3, to their infant while breastfeeding.[1] There is DHA in breast milk, therefore a baby who is breastfed by a mother who gets enough DHA in her own diet should also get sufficient DHA in their own system.[2] [3] DHA is particularly important for a baby who was born prematurely, as the majority of the DHA that gets deposited in the membrane around the brain does so during the 3rd trimester of pregnancy.[4]

The concern is that many mothers do not eat enough foods rich in DHA to have adequate supplies to pass on to their breastfed babies. According to the American Food and Drugs Act (FDA), 50 percent of pregnant women ate far less fish than the recommended amount. [5]

What is the Recommended Dietary Intake?

Considering the benefits of DHA from eating fish for growth and development during pregnancy and early childhood combined with the risk of mercury intake from eating too much fish, the FDA recommends breastfeeding mothers to consume a minimum of 2-3 servings of lower-mercury fish per week (8 to 12 ounces). However, all fish contain a bit of mercury, which can be harmful to the brain and nervous system if a person is exposed to too much of it over time. [6]

Canada’s Food Guide gives similar advice, recommending that Canadians eat at least two servings (of 75 grams each, which equals to a minimum of 5.3 ounces per week) of fish per week. Canada’s Food Guide also recommends that breastfeeding mothers must not overdo it and eat too much fish because of the risk for mercury, which would be harmful to the mother and the infant. [7]

Benefits of DHA for Infants

Studies show that DHA in a lactating mother’s diet directly affects the amount of DHA that gets transferred to her breastmilk and subsequently to her baby.[8] Naturally, the amount of DHA in breastmilk differs depending on the geographical location and the diets consumed by the mother during lactation.[9]

Babies accumulate the majority of DHA into their central nervous system up until about 18 months of age.[10] DHA is found specifically in the outer layer of the cells within the brain. Studies have shown that the concentration of DHA in the nervous system positively impacts the nervous system [11] and vision.[12]

Infants need DHA, especially during the first few years of life so their brains, eyes, and nervous systems can develop as they should. Accumulation of DHA in the central nervous system actively occurs during the developmental period of the infant, primarily relying on DHA found within the body’s blood system. Since DHA is mainly found in the outer layer of the brain and in the retina, which is found in the back part of the eye, many scientists have studied its role in brain development, learning ability, and visual acuity.[13]

There is DHA in breastmilk and it is sometimes added to certain infant formulas.[14] Because we primarily rely on getting DHA from the food we eat, it is important to ensure we are eating a healthy and balanced diet, and taking additional supplements if we fear we may be missing important nutrients. Foods that are rich in omega-3s, specifically DHA, include fish, marine algae, and some fortified foods.[15]

The inclusion of plentiful DHA in the diet, or through a supplement like Thinkmist™. improves learning ability. [16] Interestingly, DHA is used as a supplement for premature babies during the first four months after birth in order to promote better mental development.[17] It has also been shown that the visual acuity of healthy, full-term, formula-fed infants is increased when their formula includes DHA.[18]

DHA Supplements While Breastfeeding

If you are breastfeeding your child and are concerned that you are not eating enough fish either because of personal diet preference or because of the risk of ingesting too much mercury, DHA supplements just might be your answer. Thinkmist Prenatal is specifically designed to meet the nutritional needs of pregnant and breastfeeding moms and delivers 214.5 mg of DHA in just one spray.

For children who are not breastfeeding or meeting the recommended seafood intake, Thinkmist provides an easy way to ensure your child gets DHA to support their healthy growth and development.

Scientists have studied DHA supplementation of mothers of premature babies born at 29 weeks of gestation or younger to see the amount of DHA in breastmilk in mothers. In a study, they provided DHA supplements to one group for up to 36 weeks after the birth and the other control group of mothers did not receive DHA supplements to their diet. Results show that when a mother of a preemie baby adds DHA supplements to their diet, her levels of DHA increased 12-fold and about 7 times more DHA is passed on to the baby versus the control group of mothers who did not receive any DHA supplements.[19]

 

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About the author:

Natalie Bourré | Healthcare Blogger

Natalie works as a consultant for various medical organizations and pharmaceutical companies. Her goal is to help them communicate accurate medical information in patient-friendly language via traditional and digital marketing methods.

Blog: https://marketing4health.net/

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