The effect of breast milk LC PUFA and carotenoids on psychomotor development of infants

The effect of breast milk LC PUFA and carotenoids on psychomotor development of infants

Nutrition is vital to the growth and development of not only an adult but also for infants, especially the development of the brain during the early stages of life. Therefore, breast milk is considered the best nutrition for the healthy growth and neurodevelopment of an infant. 

A research by Zielinska et al.1 on 39 mother-infant pairs (mean age 30.9 years-6.6 months) analyzed the 1st and 3rd month breast milk concentrations of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC PUFA), such as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), linoleic acid (LA), alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and arachidonic acid (AA); and carotenoids (beta-carotene, lycopene and lutein + zeaxanthin). Furthermore, the researchers assessed the relationship between these breast milk nutrients and psychomotor development (using Children Development Scale (DSR)) of exclusively breastfed infants at the 6th month of life.

The average concentration of LC PUFA, ALA, DHA and AA were 14%, 1.2%, 0.50% and 0.19% of fatty acids, respectively. The average concentrations of lycopene, β-carotene and lutein + zeaxanthin were 121 nmol/L, 33.3 nmol/L and 33.3 nmol/L, respectively. The total mean DSR performance scale result was 39 centiles (95% CI 35-43). The results showed statistically significant associations for n-3 LC PUFA (β = 0.423; p ≤ 0.05), DHA  = 0.275; p ≤ 0.05), ALA (β = 0.432; p ≤ 0.05) and β-carotene (β = 0.359; ≤ 0.05) and infant motor development. 

The study highlights the role of the mother’s diet in the cognitive development of infants as the concentration of n-3 LC PUFA and carotenoids in breast milk are dependent on the diet of the mother. Therefore, it is imperative to introduce foods and dietary supplements that contain these nutrients, such as fatty fish and seafoods, fresh vegetables, fruits, grains, beans, vegetable oils, nuts and seeds as they not only help in cognitive development of the infant but are also beneficial for the health of pregnant and lactating mothers2,3

Exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months for infants is recommended by WHO4; it is only reasonable to consider that infants can receive increased nutrients, including LC PUFA and carotenoids with an increase in breast milk quality and production.

Li and colleagues5 evaluated the effect of the Essence of Chicken (EOC) on 235 postpartum women. They concluded that EOC promotes early milk secretion and increases milk production by 2-fold. 

In another study, researchers concluded that EOC improves the quality of breast milk by promoting certain growth factors and proteins, such as epidermal growth factors (EGF), transforming growth factor-beta 2 (TGF-β2) and lactoferrin in the colostrum, which enhance growth, gastrointestinal development and immunity of the infant6.

It would be interesting to explore the synergistic effect of consuming EOC along with nutrient rich dietary on breast milk nutrient in future studies. 


  1. Zielinska MA, Hamulka J, Grabowicz-Chądrzyńska I, Bryś J, Wesolowska A. Association between Breastmilk LC PUFA, Carotenoids and Psychomotor Development of Exclusively Breastfed Infants. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2019;16(7):1144.
  2. Deng J, Li X, Ding Z, Wu Y, Chen X, Xie L. Effect of DHA supplements during pregnancy on the concentration of PUFA in breast milk of Chinese lactating mothers. Journal of Perinatal Medicine. 2017;45(4):437-441.
  3. Zielinska MA, Hamulka J, Wesolowska A. Carotenoid Content in Breastmilk in the 3rd and 6th Month of Lactation and Its Associations with Maternal Dietary Intake and Anthropometric Characteristics. Nutrients. 2019;11(1):193. 
  4. WHO The World Health Organization’s Infant Feeding Recommendation. [(accessed on 29 September 2019)]; Available online:
  5. Li XM et al. Effects of Essence of Chicken on Postnatal Lactation. Chinese Journal of Practical Gynecology and Obstetrics. 1997;13:295-296.
  6. Chao JC, Tseng HP, Chang CW, Chien YY, Au HK, Chen JR, Chen CF. Chicken extract affects colostrums protein compositions in lactating women. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. 2004;15(1):37-44.