The Role of Essential Fatty Acids in Lactation

breast milkMature human breast milk is a good source of essential fatty acids of both the Omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids series. A normal and well-nourished woman puts forth adequate amounts of EFAs needed for her infant in her breast milk. However, there is need for more information on the adequacy or otherwise of fatty acids in human milk of undernourished mothers. In a normal well-nourished woman the fat-stores accumulated during pregnancy could provide a significant proportion of the essential fatty acids of milk at least during the first 3 months of lactation. So it is expected that undernourished woman may be expected to have accumulated less fat-stores during pregnancy. Fat output in milk is variable and depends on maternal nutrition and prolactin secretion. It has been estimated that the mother’s diet should provide 3 to 5g of EFAs daily to ensure adequate concentration of EFAs in milk.

In the absence of adequate intake of foods rich in essential fatty acids including fish, green leafy vegetables and pulses, essential fatty acids in breast milk of undernourished mothers could fall short of the requirements for normal infant growth and development. It is estimated that as many as six to ten thousand synaptic connections between neural cells are made in the postnatal period and early infancy. The basic materials required for this major operation are the essential fatty acids of human milk. The child’s eventual state of mental development may well depend on the adequacy of supply of the needed fatty acids at this crucial stage of development.


Mike Maunu – Founder