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The Vitamins Breastfeeding Moms Should Take

One of the most uncomfortable parts of pregnancy for me was having to take prenatal vitamins. The pill my doctor recommended had a distinct metallic aftertaste and, on more than one occasion, I worried about swallowing some of the foil from the vitamin's blister packaging.After giving birth, I talked to my doctor about what vitamins I should take for breastfeeding, hoping that I could get away with a Flintstones chewable and a glass of orange juice.

In theory, moms who eat a well-balanced diet should be able to get all of the nutrients their bodies need for breastfeeding from their food. But, in reality, it's very difficult to make sure you're eating all of the right foods all of the time. Because of this, the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Medical Center noted that most healthcare professionals recommend a nursing mother take a daily multivitamin that contains 100 percent of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA). Many new moms simply continue to take their prenatal vitamins throughout breastfeeding, but the UCSF experts warn that prenatal vitamins contain much more iron than needed for breastfeeding and can exacerbate problems with constipation or stomach upset.

Courtesy of Jaclyn Iglesias

According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA), nursing women have unique nutritional needs that are not necessarily addressed by a typical prenatal vitamin, and recommended that moms consider a multivitamin that is formulated specifically for breastfeeding women. Some of these postnatal blends have up to 700 percent of the daily value of vitamin D, a nutrient in which most women are deficient, according to the APA.

But, before you start taking any supplement, especially one that contains much more than the RDA of certain vitamins, consult with your doctor. According to Kelly Mom, the levels of some water soluble vitamins, such as vitamin C, pass into the breast milk and increase up to a certain point, then remain steady, even if mom increases her dose. But, fat soluble vitamin supplements, such as vitamins A and E, can concentrate in human milk and, if a mom takes excessive amounts, it can be harmful to her breastfed baby.

Kelly Mom noted that mothers who eat no animal products may be at risk for vitamin B-12 deficiency. Moms who have little exposure to sunlight might need more vitamin D, and moms who smoke may benefit from iodine. Your health care professional can also help determine your individual nutritional needs based on your diet, where you live, and your lifestyle. As always, it's best to talk to a doctor before switching things.