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SCN News. 1994;(11):21-4.

Maternal micronutrient malnutrition: effects on breast milk and infant nutrition, and priorities for intervention.



Lactating women are more likely to experience micronutrient deficiencies than a shortage of dietary energy or protein. Micronutrient deficiencies are also more likely to affect breastmilk composition and the development and nutritional status of breastfeeding infants. Dietary interventions or supplementation can increase the secretion of many of these nutrients in breast milk and improve infant nutritional status. The author offers a table summarizing how maternal deficiency of specific micronutrients affects their concentration in breast milk, reported subsequent effects on nursing infants, and the effects of maternal supplementation on the concentration of the nutrient in breast milk and on infant function. In general, milk composition is most affected by the maternal intake of water-soluble vitamins, less influenced by the intake of fat-soluble vitamins, and relatively unaffected by maternal mineral intake or status. This brief review summarizes current knowledge on the importance of maternal micronutrient status during lactation and suggests priorities for assessing and intervening with specific nutrients. Priorities for maternal micronutrient supplementation during lactation are first suggested and policy implications considered. The author reminds that the prevalence of deficiencies needs to be further documented in specific regions and as a result of specific dietary patterns. Moreover, where the opportunity exists, the effect of dietary and supplement interventions on maternal and infant outcomes should be evaluated systematically in order to increase knowledge in the area.

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