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Home > Learn > Nutrition > >Fish Oil While Breastfeeding: What You Should Know

Fish Oil While Breastfeeding: What You Should Know

Oct 24, 23 6 min

By OBGYN Dr. Kenosha Gleaton

Fish oil is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, specifically DHA and EPA, as well as other important vitamins like vitamin A and vitamin D. [1] It’s important to find a fish oil supplement that you can trust is made without harmful additives. It’s also important to know who can benefit from a fish oil supplement and how much to take. Let’s learn a bit more about fish oil and breastfeeding.  

Benefits of Fish Oil 

Fish oil supplements are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are vital nutrients the body uses to provide energy, mediate inflammation, and support a healthy pregnancy. [2] Research shows that omega-3s can promote heart health, lower triglyceride levels, and may even reduce the risk of certain cardiovascular conditions. [2] Evidence also suggests that high intake of omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the risk of some cancers, although more information is needed. 

Fish Oil During Pregnancy

Many people tend to be wary of eating fish during pregnancy, but did you know that the Dietary Guidelines for Americans state that pregnant people should consume up to 12 ounces of seafood per week? [2] These recommendations specify that seafood should be low in mercury and high in important fatty acids like EPA and DHA. Some options that are usually deemed safe for pregnancy include salmon, anchovies, sardines, catfish, cod, tilapia, and shrimp. [3] Of course, it’s always important to consider any local fish advisories and to only eat properly cooked and prepared foods. 

So why are omega-3s and fish oil supplements so important during pregnancy? Studies show that fish oil can have very positive effects on infant health and neurodevelopment. Maternal intake of seafood and omega-3 has been shown to impact infant birth weight, length of gestation, visual and cognitive development, and more. [2] The nutrients consumed during pregnancy are being shared with a quickly developing fetus, which is why taking in high-quality and nutritious foods is so important. Research has found that supplementing with DHA during pregnancy actually leads to an increase of important fatty acids in breast milk and in infants up to a year postpartum. [4] Not only can fish oil benefit you and your baby while you’re taking it, but it will continue to benefit your child’s development long after giving birth. [4] Omega-3s may be helpful for fighting pregnancy brain fog. 

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Can I Take Fish Oil While Breastfeeding?

Not only is fish oil important during pregnancy, but it’s also recommended while breastfeeding. In fact, Recommendations from the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the American Academy of Pediatrics state that breastfeeding people should consume about 200-300 mg of DHA every day. [2,5] This can be done through the diet or the use of dietary omega supplements. 

Even though your baby may no longer be inside your belly, their development does not end at birth. There are many complex organs, pathways, signals, and more that will continue to develop for years, including the brain and eyes. [6] One of the most important fatty acids that is necessary for our brain and eye health is DHA. Research shows that DHA will begin to accumulate in an infant's brain and eyes during gestation and will continue to accumulate for at least two years after birth. [2, 7] If you are exclusively breastfeeding, it is up to you to take in all the important nutrients needed for your health and for your baby’s continued growth. 

To give you the short answer, most people should be able to take fish oil while breastfeeding. However, you should always speak to your healthcare provider before taking any medications or supplements while breastfeeding. Not all supplements are created equal, and it’s important to find a brand that you can trust. DHA isn’t the only nutrient you need while breastfeeding- consider taking a postnatal vitamin that contains DHA to cover all your bases.  

How Much Fish Oil Should I Take?

The amount of omega-3 fatty acids you need will vary depending on what stage you’re in. In general, it’s recommended that anyone breastfeeding try to consume 1.3 g of omega-3s every day. [2] To be more specific- DHA intake should reach about 200-300 mg daily. [2] 

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Omega-3 Dietary Sources 

There are plenty of ways to consume omega-3 fatty acids through the diet as well. As already mentioned, certain types of seafood can be a great source of omega-3s. Just remember to stick to properly prepared and cooked foods when pregnant and breastfeeding. You should also prioritize low-mercury options to prevent a build-up of mercury in the bloodstream. [3] Omega-3s can also be obtained through fortified foods, nuts, and seeds.

Here’s a full list of high omega-3 foods [3]:

  • Salmon
  • Anchovies
  • Sardines
  • Freshwater trout
  • Pacific mackerel
  • Herring
  • Canned light tuna
  • Catfish
  • Cod
  • Tilapia
  • Pollock
  • Shrimp
  • Fortified dairy products
  • Eggs
  • Flaxseed
  • Canola Oil
  • Walnuts
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Soybeans

Support Your Breastfeeding Journey

Your baby’s development continues long after you give birth, which is why continuing to supplement your diet while breastfeeding is crucial for hitting important milestones. Fish oil is just one of many beneficial supplements that can support your breastfeeding journey. Consider taking a postnatal vitamin with DHA to get all the vitamins and minerals you need. You should also continue to eat a healthy diet and drink lots of water to aid in milk production. Looking for breastfeeding-safe products? Natalist has got you covered with Nip & Lip Balm, hydrating drink mixes, and more. 


References:

  1. Mora JR, Iwata M, von Andrian UH. Vitamin effects on the immune system: vitamins A and D take centre stage. Nat Rev Immunol. 2008;8(9):685-698. doi:10.1038/nri2378
  2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. National Institutes of Health. February 2023. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-HealthProfessional/
  3. Pregnancy and fish: What's safe to eat? Mayo Clinic. August 10 2023. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/pregnancy-and-fish/art-20044185
  4. Dunstan JA, Mitoulas LR, Dixon G, et al. The effects of fish oil supplementation in pregnancy on breast milk fatty acid composition over the course of lactation: a randomized controlled trial. Pediatr Res. 2007;62(6):689-694. doi:10.1203/PDR.0b013e318159a93a
  5. Breastfeeding Your Baby. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. FAQ029. July 2023. https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/breastfeeding-your-baby
  6. Koren G. Polyunsaturated fatty acids and fetal brain development. Can Fam Physician. 2015;61(1):41-42.
  7. Rombaldi Bernardi J, de Souza Escobar R, Ferreira CF, Pelufo Silveira P. Fetal and neonatal levels of omega-3: effects on neurodevelopment, nutrition, and growth. ScientificWorldJournal. 2012;2012:202473. doi:10.1100/2012/20247

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