Iodine While Breastfeeding
Iodine is an essential nutrient for both breastfeeding women and breastfed infants.
Iodine is important for normal thyroid function. During pregnancy and after giving birth, a mother’s thyroid hormone levels influence her baby’s growth and brain development.
Thyroid dysfunction can lead to other, more serious, health problems.
Read on to find out more about the importance of iodine while breastfeeding.
Is iodine good for babies?
Iodine is an essential element required for normal infant growth and development both in utero and after birth.
In utero, iodine is vital for the development of the brain and nervous system. After a baby has been born, iodine plays a crucial role in the development of the five senses, coordination and alertness.
This is why it is essential that both pregnant and lactating women get enough iodine.
Maternal supplementation of folic acid is also essential for pregnant women.
You can read more about folic acid and breastfeeding in BellyBelly’s article Folic Acid While Breastfeeding | Why It Is Important.
How does lack of iodine affect the baby?
Iodine deficiency in pregnant women is associated with increased risk of obstetric complications, including miscarriage, preterm labor, low birth weight and stillbirth.
Research has shown that even mild iodine deficiency can result in a higher risk of adverse outcomes for infants, related to literacy, IQ scores and fine motor skills development.
Severe iodine deficiency is associated with major, irreversible effects on infants such as neonatal hypothyroidism, cretinism (a condition of severely stunted growth and development) and mental retardation.
How much iodine should I take a day while breastfeeding?
The World Health Organization recommendations for iodine intake for pregnant and lactating women is 250 mcg per day.
In Australia, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommends a maternal iodine intake of 220 mcg per day for pregnant women and 270 mcg per day for breastfeeding mothers.
The recommendation is slightly higher for lactating women because exclusively breastfed infants get their entire iodine intake from breast milk alone.
Most women do not get adequate iodine from food alone, which is why iodine supplementation is routinely recommended for both pregnant and lactating women.
If you are a pregnant or breastfeeding woman, you should take an iodine supplement of 150 mcg per day. This might already be included in your prenatal vitamins.
Ask your healthcare provider if you are unsure about iodine supplementation.
Which foods are high in iodine?
You can increase your dietary intake of iodine by eating iodine rich foods.
Some of these are:
- Dairy (milk, cheese and yoghurt)
- Iodized salt.
You can find out more about how your diet affects breastfeeding in BellyBelly’s article 10 Facts About A Mother’s Diet and Breastfeeding.
A pregnant or breastfeeding woman must also take iodine supplements to make sure she maintains an adequate iodine status and avoid iodine deficiency.
How much iodine is in breast milk?
Breast milk iodine concentration varies widely, based on the maternal iodine intake of breastfeeding mothers.
Breastfed infants of mothers with adequate iodine status get enough iodine from breast milk alone.
Infants of mothers with iodine deficiency are at risk of iodine insufficiency.
Research has found that iodine supplementation in breastfeeding women quickly increases the iodine concentrations detectable in human milk and subsequent infant iodine status in the breastfed baby.
Maternal supplementation has been found to be more effective in treating iodine deficiency in breastfed infants than giving iodine supplements or iodine fortification to the infant directly.
What are the side effects of excessive iodine intake?
Excess iodine or iodine toxicity is rare in people who don’t have an existing condition of the thyroid gland.
Excessive iodine levels can cause subclinical hypothyroidism or other thyroid disease. The effects of excessive iodine intake vary greatly, depending on the individual, but are generally more serious in the elderly, neonates or preterm infants.
The most common cause of dangerous iodine levels is excessive dietary supplements or medications. It is unlikely for iodine levels to be elevated dangerously due to dietary iodine intake.
Some possible side effects or symptoms of excessive iodine intake are:
Seek medical advice if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.
Is it safe to breastfeed after a CT scan?
Most CT scans involve the use of a contrast dye that contains a large amount of iodine. The dye is usually inserted intravenously through a plastic tube or, in some cases, it is taken orally.
A standard CT scan uses around 100 ml of dye, which contains approximately 30 g of iodine.
There is no need to stop breastfeeding before or after a CT scan.
How long does iodine stay in breast milk?
According to LactMed and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiology, breast milk iodine concentration levels are less than 1% within the first 24 hours of using an iodine based dye for medical purposes.
In patients with normal thyroid function, urinary iodine concentrations return to baseline within days.
Can I take Betadine (povidone-iodine) while breastfeeding?
Betadine is used to prevent minor wounds becoming infected. It is used in hospitals as an antiseptic, pre and post surgery, and might also be used as hand sanitiser for health care workers.
The active ingredient in Betadine is povidone-iodine.
Products containing this ingredient are not recommended for use by breastfeeding mothers for their potential to affect a baby’s normal thyroid function.
It’s unlikely that the amount of iodine from transdermal absorption would increase the breast milk iodine concentration enough to be considered harmful to breastfed infants. There is potential, however, for maternal iodine levels to accumulate with repeated use over a longer period of time.
Lactating mothers who are unsure about the safety of any medications be used while breastfeeding should consult with their doctor or pharmacist for advice.