Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids such as DHA are essential nutrients required for normal health, growth and development. Increasing evidence shows that feeding infants breast milk with a higher DHA content improves their vision and neuro-development.
So, does educating mothers about the DHA levels in their milk have any impact on those levels? Numerous studies have found a link between maternal intake of DHA (through diet and supplements) and increased DHA levels in breast milk. A study in South Dakota examined 84 women who were educated about their DHA levels and looked at the resulting impact on the DHA levels in their milk.
Women who reported taking DHA supplements had higher levels than those who did not. In those who submitted a second sample, median breast milk DHA content increased from 0.19 to 0.22%.
The study found that providing nursing mothers with information about the importance of DHA and the levels present in their own breast milk motivated them to continue nursing and make dietary and supplement changes that increased their milk's DHA levels.
Breastfeeding mothers can check the level of DHA and other nutrients in their milk using Lactation Lab's test kit. Lactation Lab founder Dr Stephanie Canale MD developed the kit to help educate breastfeeding mothers by measuring the nutritional value of breast milk, including the level of DHA. "As we learn more about the importance of the quality of breast milk through this type of research, it is helpful to have a tool to measure it," said Dr. Canale.
Source: International Breastfeeding Journal: Brian A. Juber, Kristina Harris Jackson, Kristopher B. Johnson, William S. Harris and Michelle L. Baack