Breastmilk contains all three fatty acids. The infant brain builds up stores of DHA and ARA from late pregnancy (through the placenta) and over the first 24 month (via breast milk).
Both DHA and ARA have been measured in breastmilk from around the world, and the level average out to be 0.32% (for DHA) and 0.43% (for ARA)2, as a percent of the total breastmilk fatty acids. During early newborn life, DHA is higher and starts to reduce slowly as breastfeeding slows down3
DHA and EPA are both required, not just DHA alone, to support effective transport across the placenta and is present in the infant’s body systems after birth4.
DHA and ARA intake have been directly associated with improved visual acuity and cognitive function5. In one report, 0.36% DHA in combination with ARA has been shown to result in improved cognitive ability, including vocabulary and verbal IQ at age 5 years (figure)6.
Improvement in cognitive function with DHA & ARA