Is it safe to take an omega-3 supplement when I'm breastfeeding?

Is it safe to take an omega-3 supplement when I'm breastfeeding?

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Yes. In fact, if you're not eating fatty fish like salmon or sardines once or twice a week, taking a daily omega-3 supplement might be a good idea.

Certain types of fish are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids (specifically DHA and EPA), which experts believe are important for a baby's brain and eye development, and omega-3s are passed to a baby in breast milk. Cold-water fish – also referred to as fatty fish – contain the highest amounts of omega-3s.

In general, it's better to get your nutrients from food – that way you'll benefit from other nutrients in the food at the same time. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that breastfeeding women eat 8 to 12 ounces per week of a variety of seafood. This amount provides about 250 mg of omega 3-s.

If you want to try supplements instead, you should know that a few studies have shown small benefits in child cognitive development when pregnant or nursing women take omega-3 supplements, but most have shown no significant benefits from these products.

You can find omega-3 supplements in liquid, soft chews, and soft gel form, and some are flavored to mask the fishiness. Omega-3 supplements are mercury-free. Many contain fish oil, but mercury is not stored in fatty tissue, so it's not in the oil.

Other omega-3 supplements are derived from algae rather than fish. These supplements have no mercury and no fishy aftertaste, and they're even appropriate for vegetarians.

You'll want to try to make sure that the brand you choose filters the oil to eliminate toxins, such as PCB. See our article on buying supplements for guidance.

Note: Some women turn to cod liver oil as a source of omega-3s. If you go this route, check the label to make sure you're not exceeding the recommended dosage of vitamin A. (Vitamin A can be toxic at high doses.)

Learn more
Eating fish when you're breastfeeding: How to avoid mercury and still get your omega-3s

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