Very preterm infants are vulnerable to deficiency in DHA. In a longitudinal study, 10 mothers who delivered ≤29 wk gestation and planned to breast-feed received DHA (1200 mg/d) until 36 wk after conception. The plasma DHA status was assessed in their 12 infants (including 2 pairs of twins) from birth to d 49. Fatty acid profiles were measured weekly in breast milk, and in plasma of mothers and infants at baseline and at d15 and 49. Plasma and breast milk fatty acid concentrations in the DHA-supplemented group at d 49 were compared with a reference group of very preterm infants (n = 24, including triplets) whose mothers (n = 22) did not receive DHA during lactation.

The infants' plasma DHA concentration tended to be greater in the DHA group than in the reference group (P = 0.10) and was greater when expressed as a percentage of total fatty acids (P = 0.009). At d 49, maternal milk DHA in the DHA group (1.92 ± 1.10 mmol/L) was ~12 times higher than in the reference group (0.15 ± 0.27 mmol/L) (P < 0.001). The amount of DHA provided to the infants increased from wk 1 through wk 7 in the DHA group (P < 0.001). Although enteral intake at wk 7 did not differ between the DHA group [119 ± 51 mL/(kg·d)] and the reference group [113 ± 66 mL/(kg·d)], DHA group infants received 55 ± 38 mg/(kg·d) of DHA, and the reference group infants received 7 ± 11 mg/(kg·d) (P < 0.001).

Early supplementation with DHA to lactating mothers with low dietary DHA intake successfully increased the plasma DHA status in very preterm infants.

PMID: 21169226

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Note: daily DHA dose of 1200 mg (DHASCO, Mead Johnson Nutrition) as two 200-mg DHA capsules 3 times/d for 8–12 wk after birth.

DHASCO® refers to a mixture of an oil extracted from the unicellular alga Crypthecodinium cohnii and high oleic sunflower oil (HOSO). The resulting mixed oil contains 40-45% of product weight as DHA.