HomeHealth articlesdhaWhat Are the Impacts of DHA Supplements on Breastfeeding Mothers?

The Impact of DHA Supplements on Breastfeeding Mothers: Nurturing Health From Within

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This article explores the impact of DHA supplements on breastfeeding mothers and how they contribute to the overall health of both mother and child.

Written by

Dr. Surabhi M

Medically reviewed by

Neha Suryawanshi

Published At November 21, 2023
Reviewed AtNovember 21, 2023


Breastfeeding is a beautiful and essential phase of motherhood, providing optimal nutrition and fostering the bond between mother and baby. During this critical time, a mother's diet significantly influences the quality of breast milk, impacting the infant's growth and development. One essential component of a breastfeeding mother's diet is docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 fatty acid with proven benefits for both the mother and the baby. It is imperative during pregnancy and breastfeeding, as DHA is transferred from the mother to the fetus during pregnancy and to the infant through breast milk after birth.

What Is DHA?

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is a long-chain omega-3 fatty acid primarily found in fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines. It is a critical component of cell membranes, particularly in the brain and the eye's retina. Since the human body cannot produce sufficient amounts of DHA on its own, it must be obtained through diet or supplements.

DHA is also found in algae and krill, which are primary food sources for fish. Through the marine food chain, DHA accumulates in fish and other seafood.

DHA is vital for various bodily functions, particularly in the brain and nervous system. It makes up a significant portion of the brain's cell membranes and is crucial in promoting proper brain development and function. It is essential during fetal development, infancy, and early childhood, as it supports brain growth and cognitive function.

In addition to its role in brain health, DHA is essential for maintaining healthy eyesight. It is a component of the retina that contributes to visual development and function. Moreover, DHA has been linked to various other health benefits, such as supporting cardiovascular health, reducing inflammation, and playing a role in the immune system.

Due to its importance in brain development and overall health, DHA has gained attention as a dietary supplement, especially for pregnant and breastfeeding women and young children. DHA supplements derived from marine sources are available to help individuals meet their DHA needs, particularly if they have limited dietary access to fatty fish or prefer a supplemental form.

What Are the Impacts of DHA Supplements on Breastfeeding Mothers?

  • Increased DHA Levels in Breast Milk: Taking DHA supplements can lead to higher levels of DHA in breast milk. This is important because breast milk is the primary source of nutrition for infants during the first months of life, and DHA supports the baby's brain and eye development.

  • Improved Cognitive Development in Infants: Studies have suggested that infants who receive higher levels of DHA through breast milk may have improved cognitive and visual development. DHA is known to support brain health and visual acuity, and adequate levels of DHA in breast milk can positively impact the baby's development.

  • Reduced Risk of Postpartum Depression: Some research has indicated that DHA supplementation may help reduce the risk of postpartum depression in breastfeeding mothers. Omega-3 fatty acids, including DHA, have been associated with improved mood and mental well-being.

  • Better Maternal Health: DHA supplements may also benefit the mother's health. Omega-3 fatty acids, including DHA, have been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease and inflammation, and they may help support overall cardiovascular health in breastfeeding mothers.

  • Potential for Reduced Allergy Risk: Some studies suggest that DHA supplementation during pregnancy and breastfeeding may be associated with a reduced risk of allergies in children. However, more research is needed to establish a clear link between DHA intake and allergy prevention.

What Are the Natural Sources of DHA?

DHA is primarily found in marine sources, particularly fatty fish and certain types of algae. Here are some natural food sources of DHA:

1. Fatty Fish: Fatty fish are among the richest sources of DHA. Examples include:

  • Salmon.

  • Mackerel.

  • Sardines.

  • Trout.

  • Herring.

  • Anchovies.

2. Algae: Certain types of algae are direct sources of DHA, as they are where fish obtain this essential fatty acid. Algae-based DHA supplements are available for those who prefer a plant-based source of omega-3s. Some algae species naturally high in DHA include:

  • Schizochytrium.

  • Ulkenia.

  • Nannochloropsis.

3. Krill: Krill is a small marine crustacean that serves as a food source for certain fish and marine animals. It contains DHA, making it an indirect source of this essential fatty acid.

4. Cod Liver Oil: Cod liver oil is derived from the liver of cod fish and is rich in both DHA and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), another essential omega-3 fatty acid.

5. Fish Roe (Fish Eggs): Fish eggs, also known as fish roe, contain DHA along with other nutrients. Common examples include salmon roe (salmon caviar) and trout roe.

6. Certain Seafood: Besides fatty fish, other seafood options can provide some DHA, although the levels may be lower. Examples include:

  • Shrimp.

  • Scallops.

  • Oysters.

For those who have dietary restrictions, such as vegetarians and vegans, algae-based DHA supplements can be an excellent alternative to obtain this essential fatty acid without relying on fish sources.

It is essential to note that the DHA content in food sources can vary based on factors such as the fish's diet, habitat, and age. Additionally, environmental concerns, such as mercury levels in certain fish, should be considered when choosing seafood as a source of DHA. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should be cautious about consuming fish that may contain high levels of mercury.


DHA supplements can play a significant role in supporting the health and well-being of breastfeeding mothers and their infants. By increasing the levels of DHA in breast milk, these supplements contribute to the baby's cognitive and visual development. Moreover, they may reduce the risk of allergies in children and promote overall maternal health. Also, it is essential to maintain a balanced diet and consult with a healthcare provider before adding any new supplements. Embracing the power of DHA during the breastfeeding journey allows mothers to nurture their babies' health from within, fostering a bright and promising future for their little ones.

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Neha Suryawanshi
Neha Suryawanshi



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