Iodine & Breast feeding, key to better health for mothers and children

Breast milk provides the ultimate nutrition for infants. It has many health benefits for both mother and child. Similarly, Iodine too is an essential dietary nutrient especially for infants and pregnant women. It is required for the production of thyroid hormones, which are important regulators of metabolism, growth, and development. According to Global Nutrition Report 2020, continued breastfeeding up to 1 or 2 years of age is less common for children in wealthier households, urban areas or with a more educated mother. In contrast, rates of solid food introduction and minimum diet diversity are substantially lower for children in the poorest households, in rural areas or with a less educated mother. Hence, this World Breast Feeding Week that is celebrated every first week of August, it is important to know the link between Iodine and breastfeeding and why there needs to be more awareness among women about it. 

When it comes to pregnancy, there’s an immeasurable amount of emphasis on the importance of making positive dietary and lifestyle changes, before and during pregnancy. A good diet, plenty of rest, minimal stress levels, and a healthy environment all contribute to a healthy baby. While most mothers know the importance of nutrition in pregnancy, the awareness of the significance of iodine which is needed for brain development of the baby in the womb is low. Women’s iodine requirements increase substantially especially during pregnancy to ensure adequate supply to the fetus. Yet many women are unknowingly deficient in iodine due to the increased demand for iodine and thyroid hormones starting from the early weeks of pregnancy. This suggests that there may be a need for additional supplements of iodine in the high-risk population to prevent iodine deficiency and its associated disorders. As per WHO, all pregnant and lactating mothers must get their daily requirement of iodine (250 micrograms). 

Nutrition Expert, Tata Nutrikorner, Kavita Devgan explained, “Breastfeeding should preferably be continued up to at least two years to protect the child from various forms of malnutrition. It has numerous health benefits for both mother and child. Breastfeeding is also linked to higher IQ scores among children in their later childhood as they receive iodine through their mother’s milk. Hence, during pregnancy women have a sharply increased need for iodine, which is frequently insufficient in their regular diets. Even mild iodine deficiency puts children at risk of brain development and reduced IQ. Women must get their daily requirement of iodine through the consumption of an acceptable amount of iodized salt or by adding fish and dairy products to their daily diet that are major sources of Iodine”

Some of the benefits of breastfeeding to mothers are it helps in burning extra calories and also lowers the risk of breast and ovarian cancer. And for infants it provides the ideal nutrition to grow, it contains antibodies that help them fight off viruses and bacteria, lowers the risk of them having allergies, ear infections, respiratory illness, and bouts of diarrhea. Overall it keeps them in good health with fewer hospitalizations and trips to the doctor. 

The good news is instances of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and type 2 diabetes, and deaths among mothers can be averted with regular breastfeeding. Similarly, iodine deficiency can also easily be prevented at low cost by making a simple addition of good quality branded Iodized salt to your diet.

*Global Nutrition report 2020

*Iodine Global Network