If you notice that you’re losing a lot of hair in the first few months after giving birth, you’re certainly not alone. As your hormones return to their pre-pregnancy levels, postpartum hair loss is common, but that doesn’t mean you love seeing your luscious pregnancy hair stuck in the shower drain. Many of the fancier hair care vitamins available share one humble but (very) mighty ingredient: biotin. If you’re hoping to hold onto thicker hair after giving birth, you may be wondering, is taking biotin while breastfeeding safe?
While biotin is typically safe to take while breastfeeding, it may not be all that effective in treating postpartum hair loss. "Biotin is part of the B vitamin family. Vitamins are safe for breastfeeding, but the quantity of [certain vitamins] can be unsafe,” Danielle Downs Spradlin, IBCLC and founder of Oasis Lactation Services, tells Romper. “Generally, B-family vitamins are easily excreted in urine if we ingest more than our body can use.”
While your body should get rid of any excess, it’s still important to note that, “the recommended dietary allowance of biotin for breastfeeding women is 35 micrograms,” Krystal Nicole Duhaney, RN, IBCLC, tells Romper. She adds that taking a biotin supplement might change the taste of your milk. In some rare cases, a drastic change in breastmilk's taste can cause a baby to reject it.
Shedding hair is part of the natural postpartum cycle, and it’s unlikely that biotin will help you hold onto your hair (I know, ugh) because this type of hair loss is not caused by a nutritional deficiency. “When the normal shed cycle resumes postpartum, many parents feel like they are losing a lot of hair,” Downs Spradlin tells Romper. This is just because the hair didn't shed regularly while pregnant and so once hormones begin to shift, the hair sheds at once and it feels like a ton is falling out. “Taking a vitamin supplement is not going to change a normal, healthy process. While hair loss is a symptom of biotin deficiency, postpartum hair loss is not related to biotin,” she adds.
The better news is that the shedding phase is only temporary, and “your hair should begin re-growing and return to its normal growing cycle around six months after the shedding began,” Duhaney tells Romper. “If your hair does not regrow or you lose an excessive amount of hair, it’s recommended that you consult with your healthcare provider to check for any conditions such as anemia or hypothyroidism.”
Biotin is not only helpful for hair; it may also help with skin and nail health, and aid in the body’s ability to metabolize fat and carbohydrates which can help with energy levels, per Dermstore. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) also noted that “at least a third of pregnant women develop marginal biotin deficiency in spite of normal biotin intakes; plasma and breastmilk concentrations of biotin decrease in lactating women.” If you’re not interested in taking a biotin supplement, you can also find the vitamin in foods like eggs, liver, salmon, and certain green vegetables.
Because biotin is water-soluble, it’s hard to take too much (you will pee out the excess) but some supplements contain multiple vitamins, and it’s essential to be very careful with your intake of fat-soluble vitamins (A,D, E and K). "Fat-soluble vitamins can reach toxic levels more easily and should be taken in safe doses, not mega-doses,” Downs Spradlin says. You may need certain fat-soluble vitamins, however, and she adds that, “the AAP recommends breastfeeding parents supplement vitamin D for themselves if they are not supplementing their baby. The maternal dose is 6400IU daily.”
If you're planning to take a biotin supplement while pregnant or nursing, always consult with your doctor first and read the label carefully. As the InfantRisk Center warned, MSM (a supplement that is reported to promote hair growth) should be avoided while breastfeeding, Duhaney says, and MSM is often found in supplements that also contain biotin.
Nutritional needs will shift postpartum depending on what and how much you're eating, and if you and your doctor decide that taking a biotin supplement is right for you, then it's definitely safe to do so. Just remember that taking biotin isn't going to magically make you hold onto all your thick pregnancy hair (sadly nothing can help with that), and there's a chance that the vitamin can alter the taste of your milk.
Danielle Downs Spradlin, IBCLC with Oasis Lactation Services
Krystal Nicole Duhaney, RN, IBCLC, and founder of Milky Mama