Drug Levels and Effects:

Summary of Use during Lactation:

Lecithin is a mixture of choline, choline esters, fatty acids, glycerol, glycolipids, triglycerides, phosphoric acid, and phospholipids, such as phosphatidylcholine that are normal components ofhumanmilk. Supplemental lecithin has been recommended as a treatment for plugged milk ducts,[1][2] and as an additive tohumanmilk that is given to preterm infants via pumping through plastic tubing in order to prevent fat loss.[3] No scientifically valid clinical studies exist on the safety and efficacy of high-dose lecithin supplementation in nursing mothers or infants. Supplementation with one component of lecithin, phosphatidylcholine, increases choline, but not phosphatidylcholine concentrations in breastmilk. Lecithin is usually well tolerated and is considered to be "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS) by the US Food and Drug Administration.

Dietary supplements do not require extensive pre-marketing approval from the US Food and Drug Administration. Manufacturers are responsible to ensure the safety, but do not need to prove the safety and effectiveness of dietary supplements before they are marketed. Dietary supplements may contain multiple ingredients, and differences are often found between labeled and actual ingredients or their amounts. A manufacturer may contract with an independent organization to verify the quality of a product or its ingredients, but that does not certify the safety or effectiveness of a product. Because of the above issues, clinical testing results on one product may not be applicable to other products. More detailed informationabout dietary supplementsis available elsewhere on the LactMed Web site.

Drug Levels:

No published information was not found as of the revision date on milk levels of lecithin components following maternal supplementation. However, lecitihin components are normally found in breastmilk as reported below.

Maternal Levels.

A study ofhumanmilk from mothers of preterm (n = 17) and fullterm (n = 16) infants found several lecithin components, such as choline, phosphocholine, and phosphatidylcholine. Choline levels in fullterm milk were higher (116 micromoles/L) than in preterm milk (98 micromoles/L). Choline ester concentrations were not different between the two types of milk. Phosphatidylcholine choline levels were sightly higher (90 micromoles/L) than in fullterm milk (82 micromoles/L), but the difference was not statistically significant.[4]

Longitudinal analysis ofhumanmilk samples from 8 mothers found that choline levels increased from 110 micromoles/L during days 2 to 6 postpartum to 210 micromoles/L during days 7 to 22. Phosphatidylcholine increased from 70 micromoles/L to 100 micromoles/L over the same time periods.[5]

A study of 103 pregnant women measured the choline content of their milk through 45 days postpartum. Participants were given a daily supplement of 5400 mg of phosphatidylcholine (PhosChol brand) equal to 750 mg of choline (n = 48) or a placebo (n = 48). The daily dosage was divided equally between morning and evening. At 45 days postpartum, breastmilk choline concentrations were statistically different at 83 micromoles/L in the placebo group and 106 micromoles/L in the supplemented group. Phosphatidylcholine concentrations were not statistically different at 107 micromoles/L in the placebo group and 113 micromoles/L in the supplemented group.[6]

Infant Levels.

Relevant published information was not found as of the revision date.

Effects in Breastfed Infants:

Relevant published information was not found as of the revision date.

Possible Effects on Lactation:

Relevant published information was not found as of the revision date.


1. Lawrence RA. Breastfeeding: a guide for the medical profession, 2nd ed. C.V. Mosby. Saint Louis. 1985; 203.
2. Scott CR. Lecithin: it isn't just for plugged milk ducts and mastitis anymore. Midwifery Today Int Midwife. 2005;26-7. PMID:16419666
3. Chan MM, Nohara M, Chan BR et al. Lecithin decreaseshumanmilk fat loss during enteral pumping. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2003;36:613-5. PMID:12717084
4. Holmes-McNary MQ, Chen WL, Mar MH et al. Choline and choline esters inhumanand rat milk and in infant formulas. Am J Clin Nutr. 1996;64:572-6. PMID:8839502
5. Holmes HC, Snodgrass GJ, Iles RA. Changes in the choline content ofhumanbreast milk in the first 3 weeks after birth. Eur J Pediatr. 2000;159:198-204. PMID:10664235
6. Fischer LM, da Costa KA, Galanko J et al. Choline intake and genetic polymorphisms influence choline metabolite concentrations inhumanbreast milk and plasma. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010;92:336-46. PMID:20534746

Substance Identification:

Substance Name:


CAS Registry Number:


Drug Class:

  • Complementary Therapies

  • Food

  • Phytotherapy

  • Phospholipids

  • Plants, Medicinal

  • Administrative Information:

    LactMed Record Number:


    Last Revision Date:

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