Frequently Asked Questions for the Mother’s Milk DHA Test

 

DHA, the most abundant omega-3 fatty acid in the brain and retina, is a particularly important factor in the first two years of a child’s development. DHA assists in brain and eye development and function, and supports healthy heart function.

No, you may take it at any point during the feeding. Although breast milk has a higher fat content at the end of the feeding, the percentage of DHA remains the same.

It’s best to measure your breast milk DHA levels about 2-4 weeks after delivering  your baby.  DHA levels change naturally from the breast milk in the first few days after delivery (called “colostrum”) to the later breast milk.  Measuring your DHA breast milk level within the first month of breast feeding will allow you to make the necessary changes to your diet if you have low DHA levels.

If your DHA levels are optimum with your first testing, and you maintain the same health status, diet, and/or supplements, then once is enough. However, if your levels are low, and you decide to increase your intake of DHA (via fish or fish oil pills), then you can take the test as soon as two weeks after your previous test. (It only takes two weeks to change the levels of DHA in your breast milk!)

Due to differences in metabolisms, and a variety of other health issues, the right amount of DHA can vary between individuals. Current recommendations are that lactating women consume at least 200 mg of DHA per day. The average intake for women in their 20s-30s in the United States is about 55 mg per day.

Premature infants have an even greater need for DHA after they are born, as they missed out on some time for brain DHA accumulation from their mother in utero.

There are literally thousands of studies on the role of and need for DHA during pregnancy and after birth. Like virtually all areas of human nutrition, there is some controversy about DHA as well. Some believe that even the low levels of DHA in the breast milk of American women is good enough for babies. Others contend that higher levels (like those in Japan, where DHA levels are eight times higher than in the United States) give babies an intellectual “head start.”

1) The brain contains large amounts of DHA.
2) DHA has to come from mom in utero, and needs to be in formulas/breast milk after birth.
3) Studies have shown behavioral, IQ, and developmental benefits of higher DHA levels in the infant diet, whereas others have not.
4) Breast milk levels of 1% (compare to the less than 0.2% in American milk) are completely safe for the baby. All baby formula makers now enrich their products with DHA, and often to levels that are higher than commonly found in American breast milk. The reason for this is to match the worldwide average DHA level in human breast milk (about 0.32%).