HomeHealth articlesbreastfeedingWhat Is the Influence of Iodine Intake on Breastfeeding?

Iodine and Breastfeeding - Boosting Breastfeeding Benefits

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Iodine is a minor nutrient for all infants normally in breast milk. Iodine is an important component of fetal development. Read to know more about the article.

Written by

Dr. Ruchika Raj

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Faisal Abdul Karim Malim

Published At April 18, 2023
Reviewed AtApril 18, 2023


Iodine is one of the essential components for the growth and development of all infants. It is one of the important constituents of thyroid hormones, thyroxine, and triiodothyronine. It is present in breast milk that can vary in amount depending on total iodine levels in the mother's body. The iodine demand increases in pregnant mothers for fetal development. Any deficiency or excessive concentration of iodine in pregnant women can lead to iodine deficiency in newborns. Read the article in detail to know more about iodine intake and its influence on breastfeeding.

What is Iodine and What is its Importance?

Iodine is a mineral that is required by our body to produce thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones are responsible for maintaining body metabolism and many other functions like the development of the brain and bones. The average daily intake of iodine depends on the age of the person. Recommended daily intake of iodine at different ages of life are:

  • Birth to six months:110 micrograms per day.

  • 7 to 12 months infant: 130 micrograms per day.

  • 1 to 8 years Children: 90 micrograms per day.

  • 9 to 13 years Children: 120 micrograms per day.

  • 14 to 18 years (Teenage): 150 micrograms per day.

  • Adults:150 micrograms per day.

  • Pregnant women: 220 micrograms per day.

What Is Recommended Dietary Allowance of Iodine in Breastfeeding Mothers?

  • Before Pregnancy: 150 micrograms per day.

  • During Pregnancy: 220 micrograms per day.

  • Breastfeeding: 290 micrograms per day.

The recommended dose of iodine in pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, suggested by the American thyroid association and American academy of pediatrics, is around 150 micrograms per day. A prenatal vitamin supplement should be taken daily by pregnant women.

What Are Forms of Iodine Dietary Supplementation Available in the Market?

The dietary supplements of iodine available in the market are

  • Potassium iodide.

  • Sodium iodide.

  • various other multivitamin supplements contain iodine.

  • The normal drug levels of iodine recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) for lactating mothers is around 100 mcg/kg.

  • The normal iodine concentration in breast milk recommended by other organizations is around 60 and 450 mcg/kg.

Who Is at Risk of Deficiency of Iodine While Breastfeeding?

Women at risk of iodine deficiency while breastfeeding is

  • Women who do not consume iodized salt.

  • In women who are smokers.

  • Women who do not consume dairy products.

  • Women who do not consume food containing iodine, such as low-fat milk, eggs, seafood, and bread prepared commercially.

  • Women who consume food containing goitrogens that affect the thyroid gland resulting in disturbance in the formation of thyroid hormones. A deficiency of iodine can increase by stimulating thyroid hormone (TSH), which may lead to subclinical hypothyroidism.

How Does Iodine Deficiency in Breastfeeding Mothers Influence the Health of Infants?

The deficiency of iodine in breastfeeding mothers had a greater impact on the growth and development of infants. A few below-mentioned examples of health impacts on infants are

  • Development of Infant and Fetus: The deficiency of iodine in breastfeeding mothers can disrupt the child's growth and development and can increase the risk of a condition called cretinism. According to the American thyroid association, women who are planning to become pregnant, breastfeeding mothers, and pregnant women should consume 150 micrograms of iodine per day. Any deficiency in iodine intake can affect the neurological development of the child.

  • Effects on Cognitive Function of Infants: Severe iodine deficiency in breastfeeding mothers can result in deleterious effects on the growth and development of the brain and nervous system. According to research, even a minute deficiency of iodine in breastfeeding mothers or during pregnancy can have a greater impact on the cognitive development of infants or children.

  • Fibrocystic breast disease: Painful breasts and lumps in the breast are seen in the case of fibrocystic breast disease in women with iodine deficiency. It affects women in menopause or during reproductive age.

How Does Iodine Excess Affect the Health of Breastfeeding Mothers?

  • Excess of iodine in breastfeeding mothers also impacts the health of infants or children. Increased amounts of iodine in breast milk can result in hypothyroidism in neonates or breastfed infants. Continuous breastmilk intake high in iodine concentration by infants or newborns may lead to permanent dysfunction of thyroid function in infants.

  • Excess of iodine can result in swelling of the thyroid gland, increase risk of thyroid cancer, enlarged thyroid gland, and permanent dysfunction of the thyroid gland.

  • Increased doses of iron can lead to a burning sensation in the mouth, throat, and stomach.

  • Nausea, vomiting, fever, weak pulse, diarrhea, and coma are other harmful effects of excess iodine in the body.

  • Synthesis of thyroid hormones reduces abruptly in case of high amounts of iodine in the body which is known as “Wolff Chaikoff Effects”.

Should Iron Levels Be Checked Regularly During Pregnancy?

Healthcare professionals usually check thyroid hormone levels (T3, T4, and TSH) by performing blood tests during pregnancy. Normal thyroid hormone secretion indicates normal serum iodine levels.

What Are the Few Limitations of Standard Iodine Prophylaxis in Pregnant and Breastfeeding Mothers?

Different physiological changes are observed in pregnant and breastfeeding mothers regarding the metabolism of iodine, such as

  • Increase secretion of iodine in urine.

  • Increase in the transfer of iodine from the mother to the fetus while the placenta.

  • Increase demand for iodine in the fetal thyroid gland during the second trimester of pregnancy.

These factors increase the daily demand for iron in pregnant and lactating women.


Iodine is an essential nutrient in breast milk and is required for the growth and development of infants. Adequate daily dietary intake of iodine in breastfeeding women should be around 150 micrograms. Breastfeeding mothers need to consume a balanced diet containing iodine-rich foods to maintain the normal levels of iodine in the body. It is crucial for breastfeeding mothers to take vitamin supplements containing iodine in case a deficiency of iodine is diagnosed by the doctors after a laboratory examination. Maintenance of normal iodine levels in breastfeeding mothers should be recommended to prevent harmful effects on the health of infants or children and to ensure optimal thyroid functions in both breastfed infants and breastfed mothers.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Foods Can Nursing Mothers Consume to Increase Breast Milk Production?

There are many foods that a nursing mother can consume to increase their milk supply which include oatmeal, which has a lot of fiber and iron in it; fenugreek, which is an herb; fennel; and brewer's yeast, which has vitamin B, can all help a nursing mother produce more milk. Leafy green vegetables and nuts and seeds like almonds, flaxseed, and walnuts can also help produce more milk. In addition, papaya, carrots, and plenty of water can increase milk supply. 


Is Breastfeeding Associated With a Reduced Risk of Diabetes in Infants?

Yes, breastfeeding is associated with a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes. It is also associated with a decreased risk of obesity in childhood, which is a risk factor for the development of type 2 diabetes. Breast Milk is just one aspect. Other factors such as lifestyle, diet, and genetics also play an important role in the development of diabetes.


Can Iodine Be Transferred Through Breast Milk?

Yes, iodine can be transferred through breast milk. Proper intake of iodine helps in the production of thyroid hormone, which is important for the development and growth of the infant, especially for brain development. Iodine-rich food includes eggs, dairy products, seafood such as seaweed and fish, and iodized salt.


Does Radiation Exposure Have an Impact on Breastfeeding?

No, radiation exposure does not have an impact on breastfeeding. However, specific impacts depend on the timing of exposure and the dose of radiation. However, precautions can help in minimizing the infant's exposure to radiation, such as pumping and discarding breast milk or substituting breastmilk with a formula.


Are Breastfed Infants at Risk of Low Blood Sugar Levels?

It is very rare for an infant to develop low blood sugar levels. It can be due to a delay in initiating breastfeeding after birth (within the first hour), inadequate milk transfer, and insufficient milk supply, which may not maintain the infant's blood sugar levels. Apart from these, exclusive breastfeeding without supplementation and maternal diabetes can affect the quality of milk and lead to low blood sugar levels. 


What Strategies Can Be Employed to Manage Blood Sugar Levels While Breastfeeding?

Strategies that can help maintain stable blood sugar levels while breastfeeding include having a well-balanced diet that includes whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and legumes, having a consistent amount of carbohydrates, staying hydrated, and planning meals and snacks around breastfeeding. Apart from this, regularly monitoring blood sugar levels, monitoring milk supply, and considering medications in case of diabetes can help in maintaining blood sugar levels.  


How Does Dietary Intake of Iodine Affect Breast Health?

Adequate iodine levels help maintain the normal function of the thyroid glands, and its hormones help in breast tissue development and function. Iodine deficiency can cause fibrocystic breast changes, which can result in swelling, pain, and the formation of cysts. Apart from these, iodine deficiency can also cause inflammation of the breast and impairment in the production of milk. Excessive intake of iodine can also impact the breast. Therefore, it is recommended to take 150 micrograms (mcg) per day. 


Why Is Iodine Deficiency a Less Common Dietary Problem Now?

Iodine deficiency is a less common dietary problem because of the universal salt iodization (USI) approach, which ensures that people receive an adequate amount of iodine through their regular diet, increased awareness about the importance of iodine, and regular monitoring of iodine status in populations. Apart from these, international organizations such as WHO (World Health Organization) have helped in raising awareness and developed support programs.


What Is the Medical Condition Characterized by an Enlarged Thyroid Gland Due to Insufficient Dietary Iodine?

The medical condition characterized by an enlarged thyroid gland due to insufficient dietary iodine is called goiter. This occurs when the iodine intake is insufficient, and the thyroid glands are insufficient to produce hormones. Therefore, this causes the pituitary gland to produce TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone), which stimulates the thyroid gland and causes its enlargement.


What Is the Consequence of Iodine Deficiency Leading To Gland Enlargement?

When iodine deficiency leads to gland enlargement, called goiter, it can cause hormonal imbalance and lead to weight gain, fatigue, cold intolerance, and dry skin. Apart from these, it can cause hypothyroidism (decreased thyroid hormones) and can impact the growth of fetal and infant brains. Iodine deficiency can also have complications during pregnancy, such as preterm birth or miscarriage.


What Causes Goiter in Individuals With Low Iodine Intake?

Low iodine intake is the primary cause of goiter, which causes the body to compensate for insufficient thyroid hormone production. This causes an increased amount of TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) production from the pituitary gland, which in turn enlarges the thyroid gland. Therefore, this causes hormonal imbalance.


Which Thyroid Disorder Is a Result of Insufficient Dietary Iodine?

Thyroid disorders such as goiter and hypothyroidism can occur due to insufficient dietary iodine. Goiter is the enlargement of the gland that occurs due to increased production of TSH. Hypothyroidism is the decreased levels of thyroid hormones in the body.


Which Hormone Necessitates an Adequate Dietary Intake of Iodine?

The hormone that necessitates an adequate dietary intake of iodine is thyroxine, also known as T4, and triiodothyronine, known as T3. T4 plays an important role in the growth and development of the body. The active form of T3 is T4, which gets converted in the peripheral tissues. Therefore, all these help in regulating energy, body temperature, and metabolism of fat, carbohydrates, and protein.
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Dr. Faisal Abdul Karim Malim
Dr. Faisal Abdul Karim Malim



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