Should Breastfeeding Moms Take Vitamins?

Deciding to breastfeed you baby is wonderful, albeit intimidating, commitment. After nine months of being on a strict diet, maintaining a healthy lifestyle for the duration of your breastfeeding can seem challenging. You might be wondering if, other than eating healthfully, your body needs additional supplements in order to produce healthy breast milk. Should breastfeeding moms take vitamins?

According to the experts at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center, most breastfeeding moms only need to take one daily multivitamin that contains 100 percent of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA).

Getting your vitamin RDA can be most easily accomplished by continuing to take your prenatal vitamin for as long as you breastfeed. The problem that some women have with prenatal vitamins is that they contain a lot of iron, usually more than is necessary for breastfeeding, which has been known to cause constipation. According to the UCSF Medical center, only nine milligrams of iron is needed daily for breastfeeding women over the age of 19. Some over-the-counter brands of prenatals contain up to 30 mg of iron.

The American Pregnancy Association recommended replacing your prenatal vitamin with a postnatal vitamin once your baby is born. Many postnatal vitamins are optimized specifically for lactating women.

What if you don't eat as well-balanced as you should, or are on a low-calorie or restrictive diet?

According to Kelly Bonyata, a breastfeeding and lactation consultant from Kelly Mom, most women in developed countries don't have nutritional deficiencies that can affect their milk. This is usually only found in cases of malnutrition. However, there are cases in which a mom can personally benefit from additional vitamin intake, even if it doesn't benefit the breast milk. For example, Kelly Mom noted that nursing women with a diet of 2700 calories per day may benefit from additional calcium and zinc. Additionally, "mothers who get 2200 calories per day may need extra calcium, zinc, magnesium, thiamin (vitamin B1), vitamin B-6 & vitamin E. Mothers who get 1800 calories per day may need extra calcium, zinc, magnesium, thiamin, vitamin B6, vitamin E, folic acid, riboflavin (vitamin B2), phosphorus and iron."

Before switching vitamins or beginning a new supplement, talk to your doctor. Some over-the-counter vitamins marketed to nursing moms contain lactogenic herbs and additional supplements. Always read the label so that you know what you are buying.