Iodine after birth and for new-born babies

If you want to breast-feed your child after birth, your breast milk is the only major source of iodine for your infant in this important time, where iodine is needed for proper development of the brain and cognitive functions. So to assure that your child gets the best foundation for its later life, one step is to take care of enough iodine for yourself and for your baby, which means your need for iodine intake also increases.

Iodine is a mineral nutrient that is necessary for normal thyroid gland functions. You can get more information about iodine and its important functions in your body in the chapter “Iodine deficiency”.  

 

Therefore, the WHO recommend that breast-feeding women should take in more iodine than other adults.

But sometimes it could be very hard to get enough iodine from food, especially if your need is increased. Then measures such as supplementary iodine tablets like Iodomarin® can be taken to ensure the intake of enough iodine and to prevent iodine deficiency and its consequences as early as possible.

1. All about iodine during breastfeeding

Thyroid hormones have distinct functions in the body during different growth phases. In the early years of a new-born they regulate the growth and development of various organs, such as the brain. Therefore they are very important for proper growth and physical and mental development in children.

In the weeks after the birth the thyroid hormone production and the excretion of iodide by urine return to normal in comparison to the time when you have been pregnant. But nevertheless your need for iodine is increased, if you want to breastfeed your child. The reason for this is that breast milk is the single major source of iodine for breast fed infants during the important period of brain development. This means parts of the iodine which you have taken by food or iodine supplementation concentrates in the mammary glands. If your child gets breastfed the iodine is transferred to the infant via the breast milk. To ensure that the infant gets enough iodine from breast milk to build reserves in the thyroid gland, it is recommended that breastfeeding mothers should continue to consume more iodine than non-pregnant women. Therefore UNICEF, ICCIDD and WHO recommend an increased daily intake of 250 μg instead of 150 μg for adults in general.

One possibility to reach the increased daily need of iodine is a sufficient intake by food. In areas with normal iodine supply 200 µg of iodine can be obtained by consuming one out of the following fresh food in approximately mentioned amounts:

  • 300 g marine fish
  • 5 kg meat
  • 5 litres of milk
  • 2.5 kg eggs
  • 8.5 kg vegetables

Therefore a supplementation of iodine should be considered to achieve these amounts of iodine if you are breastfeeding.

By the way, the concentration of iodine in breast milk is 20 to 50 times higher compared with the concentration in your blood plasma. Following delivery the colostrum concentration, which means the concentration in the first milk produced by your breast, is approximately 200 – 400 μg/l. During the next few weeks after birth, the breast milk iodine concentration decreases and remains steady in the mature milk. With an adequate iodine intake of the mother, the breast milk iodine concentration ranges between 150 – 180 μg/l. This means that the daily loss of iodine of a breastfeeding mother via breast milk is approximately 75 – 200 μg per day. This amount is already insufficient for your own production of thyroid hormones. So an increased iodine intake becomes necessary to prevent an iodine deficiency and thereby any further thyroid hormone production disorders.

2. Consequences of iodine deficiency in breast-feeding mothers

As already described in case of pregnant women, an iodine deficiency in breast-feeding mothers can also cause certain disorders like hypothyroidism or goitre. In addition, and this is important for you, if you want to breast-feed your child, iodine is required for normal growth and development of breast tissue. There is one breast disease that may also be associated with iodine deficiency: the so called fibrocystic breast disease or “diffuse cystic mastopathy”. This condition can lead to painful lumps in your breast, which can hurt during breast-feeding. But physiologically breastfeeding itself is still possible.

As your breast-feeding child gets all of its iodine via the breast milk, iodine deficiency in your body can lead to a reduced neonatal thyroid hormone store leading to thyroid malfunctions. As the weeks after birth are an important period for brain development, an iodine deficiency in this period can lead to an impaired neurological development in the breast-fed child.

 

These facts clearly show that it is very important to take care of your iodine intake if you want to breast-feed your child. And it’s good to know that supplementation with iodine e. g. with Iodomarin® 100 and 200 is an easy way to reduce the risk of iodine deficiency disorder in breastfeeding women.

In a large study in several countries and cities including Germany, Denmark, Iran, Belgium, the mean iodine concentration in breastmilk was found to be below the recommended level even when iodized salt was used. Therefore a supplementation of iodine should be considered if you are breast-feeding.

3. All about iodine for children up to 24 months

Every parent certainly want their children to have the best start in their life and the first 24 month are very crucial for the development of the brain and body and develop certain abilities like walking. Therefore it is not only the loving caretaking of mommy and daddy but right nutritional support, that is important for your -born family member.

Important developmental stages of a new-born

There are some things that you can do to ensure a good health for your infant and an adequate development of every organ and function that lay the foundation for their future life. One of these things is to take care for a sufficient iodine intake of your infant, as iodine is important for the proper development of the brain and a lot of cognitive functions as well as the thyroid function. Also an iodine deficiency of a mild to moderate severity in infancy can have adverse effects on the cognitive and motor performance of your baby. This means that it may prevent them from attaining their full intellectual potential and can lead to thyroid function disorders.

If your child gets breast-fed the breast milk will be the single source of iodine in the first time, this means that its iodine intakes depends on the iodine intake of the mother. Therefore UNICEF, ICCIDD and WHO recommend an increased daily intake of 250 μg for breast-feeding mothers instead of 150 μg for adults in general. In addition babies from 7 to 24 months should be given additional iodine through complementary foods fortified with iodine, while breast-feeding should be sustained. If the child is not breast-fed iodine supplementation should be considered from the beginning.

4. Prophylaxis of an iodine deficiency

The advice given by public health authorities to counteract iodine deficiency sounds easy:

  • Consume milk and dairy products daily.
  • Eat saltwater fish once or twice a week.
  • Only use iodised salt in the household.
  • Give preference to foods including iodised salt.

But getting enough iodine just by following these advices could be very hard, when your need of this mineral is increased because you are breast-feeding. Therefore it is also difficult for your new-born child to get enough iodine, if its only source is your breast milk. But also if you start to give your baby solid foods – first as an addition, later as a replacement of breast milk – it depends on the iodine content of the foods, if your infant gets enough iodine. Especially if you live in regions where the risk of developing an iodine deficiency is very high because of a low iodine status and where vegetables, plants and livestock only contain small amounts of iodine.

An easy and effective method of acquiring an adequate amount of iodine and prevent iodine deficiency in these cases could be supplementation of iodine. One possibility is a daily intake of tablet like Iodomarin®. In case the required amount of Iodine in normal nutrition cannot be guaranteed, the iodine quantities set out below are to be administered additionally in order to prevent iodine deficiency:

Recommended iodide intake according to the package leaflet of Iodomarin®

  • Breastfeeding women: 200 μg Iodomarin® once daily
  • Infants: 50 to 100 μg Iodomarin® once daily

These recommended doses may supplement the daily iodine requirement for you and your baby and may serve as an easy and convenient way to prevent iodine deficiency and it consequences.

5. When to see the doctor

After birth your child will see a doctor for the regular medical check-ups. During these check-ups the doctor will examine the proper development of your child. If there is a suspicion of an influence of the development of the organs or the brain he or she will do some tests to check if the reason could be due to certain deficiencies like Iodine deficiency.

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