DHA and Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding women are recommended to take DHA supplements, because the omega-3 fatty acid may help with a baby's brain and eye development. DHA passes through breast milk, and if you get enough DHA, your baby probably will too. Talk to your healthcare provider about DHA and breastfeeding to further discuss the benefits.
An Overview of DHA and Breastfeeding
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is an omega-3 fatty acid that is important for your baby's brain and eye development. You may have noticed that many of the new infant formulas on the market now contain DHA. Does this mean that if you choose to breastfeed that your infant will be deficient in DHA? Would it be beneficial for you to take extra DHA?
DHA While Breastfeeding: Is It Really Necessary?
Just because infant formulas sometimes add DHA does not mean that a breastfed baby will get enough DHA. DHA passes through breast milk, and if you get enough DHA, your baby probably will too. However, the typical American diet is often low in DHA, since DHA is found mostly in oily fish.
DHA is an essential omega-3 fatty acid, which means that it must be obtained from the diet. If you exclusively breastfeed your infant, your breast milk is the only source of DHA for your baby. DHA may be important for eye and brain development, although research in this area is lacking. Studies have generally been small, and some studies have failed to show any benefit for DHA supplementation.
There are three good ways to get more DHA. First, eat more fish (although heavy metals and other toxins can be a concern). If you do not want to eat more fish, a DHA prenatal vitamin or a DHA supplement may be considered. Some new prenatal vitamins contain DHA, and many healthcare providers recommend taking prenatal vitamins while breastfeeding. If your prenatal vitamin does not contain DHA, consider adding a non-prescription DHA supplement designed especially for pregnant and breastfeeding women (such as Expecta® Lipil®).