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  • Writer's picturefranceswalker@thefoodinto

Dairy free and pregnant or breast feeding: your baby needs IODINE!

Updated: Apr 8

How is Iodine important for my baby?

Iodine is extremely important for the development off your baby's brain in the first 1000 days (this includes life pre birth).

Babies meet their iodine needs in utero or via breast milk during this time if you (ie mum) are having adequate amounts of cow's milk and/or dairy foods.

According to an excellent article in The Age by Creswell Eastman (January 8th, 2023), examining this very issue, a lack of iodine can impact brain development in an infant, which is crucial in the 1000 days post conception.

The World Health Organisation states iodine deficiency during pregnancy and early infancy- the first 1000 days of life when development of the human brain is so critical- is the commonest cause of preventable intellectual disability

Eliminating dairy can reduce the iodine in your diet.

The on trend moment of swapping out cow's milk for plant milks such as almond milk or oat milk ( I have to admit- I am loving my oat lattes ) not only compromises calcium intake but, arguably more importantly, your baby's iodine intake.

Milk contains good sources of iodine due to cattle feed being boosted with iodine and sanitisers used to dip teats and clean equipment used in production of cow's milk contain iodine.

While Seafood and saltwater fish contain large amounts of iodine, they are often not eaten enough to provide consistent levels of iodine intake.

For some, choosing plant milks instead of regular cow's milk is a necessity due to their own food allergies or sensitivities and/or their breast fed baby.

A breast fed baby that is reacting to allergens or food components in the breast milk will usually be reacting to the protein in dairy and soy milk. Going dairy and soy free is usually the first step when modifying the maternal diet for a food sensitive breast fed baby.

We know about the need to replace calcium when excluding dairy rom the diet (if you don't- want for my forthcoming blog on " Getting enough calcium when dairy free" - but iodine replacement seems to be flying under the radar.

Australia and iodine content of the soil

Australia is in a unique position in relation to iodine, as we have very iodine deficient soils, which means that Australian fruit and vegetables tend to be very low in iodine.

This is in contrast to other countries, which means for them, iodine is less of an issue. In fact, WHO has labelled Australia as an iodine deficient country.

To combat this issue, since 2009 iodine fortification of flours used for breads and bakery products must be fortificated with iodised salt.

While this is useful for most Australians to help meet their iodine needs, people who are pregnant or breast feeding need more iodine than the amounts added to bread and bakery products.

Consequently, a supplement containing 150ug of iodine is recommended daily to ensure that your baby, either in utero or being breast fed, is getting enough iodine .

Breast feeding and avoiding wheat as well as dairy can further deplete iodine

For food sensitive breast fed babies, not only is dairy and soy usually eliminated from the diet, but often wheat/gluten as well. Gluten free breads will not necessarily be fortified with iodine, as per wheat bread and wheat based bakery products, which further magnifies the risk of iodine deficiency.

If you are avoiding dairy, especially if also avoiding wheat/gluten, make sure you are taking a daily iodine supplement that provides at least of 150ug, and you can also substitute your favourite salt for iodised salt.

Note that Himalayan salt does not contain much iodine.

While seafood can be useful in terms of supplementing your iodine intake, I would still recommend a daily 150ug iodine supplement to ensure you are getting enough iodine for your self and your precious baby each and every day.

Original article: 11/1/2023

Maria Andersson , Christian P Braegger, The Role of Iodine for Thyroid Function in Lactating Women and Infants, Endocrine Reviews, Volume 43, Issue 3, June 2022, Pages 469–506,


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