Document Type


Publication Date



There is growing evidence that omega-3 (n-3) polyunsaturated fatty-acids (PUFAs) are important for the brain development in childhood and are necessary for an optimal health in adults. However, there have been no studies examining how the n-3 PUFA composition of human milk influences infant behavior or temperament. To fill this knowledge gap, 52 breastfeeding mothers provided milk samples at 3 months postpartum and completed the Infant Behavior Questionnaire (IBQ-R), a widely used parent-report measure of infant temperament. Milk was assessed for n-3 PUFAs and omega-6 (n-6) PUFAs using gas-liquid chromatography. The total fat and the ratio of n6/n-3 fatty acids in milk were also examined. Linear regression models revealed that infants whose mothers’ milk was richer in n-3 PUFAs had lower scores on the negative affectivity domain of the IBQ-R, a component of temperament associated with a risk for internalizing disorders later in life. These associations remained statistically significant after considering covariates, including maternal age, marital status, and infant birth weight. The n-6 PUFAs, n-6/n-3 ratio, and total fat of milk were not associated with infant temperament. These results suggest that mothers may have the ability to shape the behavior of their offspring by adjusting the n-3 PUFA composition of their milk.


This article was originally published in Nutrients, volume 11, in 2019.


The authors

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.