Best Supplements for Breastfeeding Mothers

Best Supplements for Breastfeeding Mothers

Breastfeeding is a crucial time when the mother's and baby's nutritional needs are heightened. As a result, some mothers may need to consider taking certain supplements to meet these needs. Here, we delve into the top supplements recommended for breastfeeding mothers and discuss their benefits, recommended dosages, and related studies.

Vitamin D3-K2

One of the most essential nutrients for both mom and baby is Vitamin D. It plays a pivotal role in calcium absorption for bone health and supports immune function. One study has shown that a breastfeeding mother must take around 6400 IU of Vitamin D per day to meet her and her baby's requirements (1). 

Pairing Vitamin D with Vitamin K2 can be an excellent choice, as these two vitamins work synergistically for better absorption and utilization in the body. In addition, vitamin K2 is especially crucial for babies as it assists in blood clotting and bone metabolism.

You can get both vitamins together here

DHA

DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), an Omega-3 acid found in fatty fish, is vital for your baby's brain development. However, since our bodies don't naturally produce DHA, breastfeeding mothers must obtain it from their diet or supplements. DHA supplements derived from algae are a safe and effective option, especially for those who don't consume fish (2).

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12's role is critical for the functioning of the brain, nervous system, and the formation of blood. It's predominantly found in animal products, so if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, a B12 supplement might be necessary. In addition, if a breastfeeding mother doesn't get enough B12, her baby may likely experience a deficiency (3).

You can find organic vitamin B12 here.

Fenugreek

Fenugreek is a herb traditionally used to enhance milk production in breastfeeding women. Numerous studies support its efficacy; many mothers can vouch for its benefits anecdotally (4).

However, it's vital to consult a healthcare provider before starting any herbal supplement, as they can occasionally interact with certain medications.

Other Supplements Breastfeeding Mothers Should Consider

Calcium

Calcium is essential for a breastfeeding mother as it supports the development of your baby's bones and teeth. While breastfeeding, mothers may lose 3-5% of their bone mass to meet their baby's needs, which can be replenished with adequate calcium intake (5). 

If you consume additional calcium, you must consume enough vitamins D3 and K2. You should also avoid taking antacids as these increase your calcium level.

Iron

Breastfeeding mothers need more iron than non-pregnant women to replace the iron used in milk production. A deficiency can lead to anemia, causing fatigue and reduced physical and cognitive performance (6).

Iodine

Iodine is crucial for producing thyroid hormones, supporting the baby's development of the brain and nervous system. Therefore, breastfeeding mothers should intake more iodine to meet their baby's needs (7).

Probiotics

Probiotics may benefit breastfeeding mothers by improving gut health, boosting immunity, and potentially reducing the risk of postpartum depression. In addition, some evidence suggests that maternal probiotic supplementation may also help protect the baby against eczema (8).

Choline

Choline is a nutrient that supports your baby's brain development and health. While your body makes some choline, it's not enough to meet your increased needs during lactation, making supplementation a good idea (9).

Remember, while supplements can be beneficial, they should not replace a balanced diet. Consult a healthcare provider prior to starting any new supplement regimen, particularly during breastfeeding, to ensure it's safe for you and your baby.

 

Supplement Benefits Recommended Daily Dose
Vitamin D3-K2 Supports immune function, bone health, enhances calcium absorption and utilization 6400 IU D3
DHA Supports baby's brain development 200-300 mg
Vitamin B12 Supports brain, nervous system, and blood formation 2.6 mcg (more when in supplement form)
Fenugreek Enhances milk production Consult a healthcare provider
Calcium Supports bone health 1,000 mg
Iron Prevents anemia 9-10 mg
Iodine Supports thyroid function and baby's brain development 290 mcg
Probiotics Boosts immunity and gut health Varies by strain
Choline Supports baby's brain development 550 mg

Supplements to avoid while breastfeeding

Indeed, while certain supplements can aid in promoting both the mother's and baby's health during breastfeeding, others might need to be avoided due to potential risks.

High-dose Multivitamins

While it's crucial to get enough vitamins while breastfeeding, high-dose multivitamin supplements can lead to excessive intake of certain nutrients. They may not only cause side effects for the mother but can also affect breast milk composition. Always prefer a balanced diet and specific supplements based on individual needs and physician recommendations (10).

Certain Herbal Supplements

Some herbs like ginseng, black cohosh, dong quai, and kava should be avoided during breastfeeding due to potential risks to the baby. They can cause side effects, from loose stools to severe liver damage (11).

Weight-loss Supplements

Many weight-loss supplements contain stimulants or other compounds that may not be safe for a breastfeeding baby. In addition, they can affect the baby's sleep and behavior and potentially lead to other health issues (12).

Excess Iodine

While iodine is essential for a breastfeeding mother and her baby, too much iodine can cause thyroid problems. It's always important to stick to the recommended daily intake unless advised otherwise by a healthcare provider (13).

High-dose Vitamin A

While Vitamin A is essential for vision and immune function, excessive intake can be harmful and even toxic. The recommended upper limit for Vitamin A during lactation is 3000 micrograms daily (14).

Remember, this list isn't exhaustive, and some individual factors can affect the safety of specific supplements during breastfeeding. 

 Best Supplements  for Breastfeeding Mothers

References:

  1. Hollis, B. W., Wagner, C. L., Howard, C. R., Ebeling, M., Shary, J. R., Smith, P. G., ... & Stokes, D. C. (2015). Maternal versus infant vitamin D supplementation during lactation: a randomized controlled trial. Pediatrics, 136(4), 625-634.
  2. Jensen, C. L., Maude, M., Anderson, R. E., & Heird, W. C. (2000). Effect of docosahexaenoic acid supplementation of lactating women on the fatty acid composition of breast milk lipids and maternal and infant plasma phospholipids. The American Journal of clinical nutrition, 71(1), 292S-299S.
  3. Pawlak, R., Lester, S. E., & Babatunde, T. (2014). The prevalence of cobalamin deficiency among vegetarians assessed by serum vitamin B12: a review of the literature. European Journal of clinical nutrition, 68(5), 541-548.
  4. Turkyılmaz, C., Onal, E., Hirfanoglu, I. M., Turan, O., Koç, E., Ergenekon, E., & Atalay, Y. (2011). The effect of galactagogue herbal tea on breast milk production and short-term catch-up of birth weight in the first week of life. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 17(2), 139-142.
  5. More, C., Bettembuk, P., Bhattoa, H. P., & Balogh, A. (2001). The effects of pregnancy and lactation on bone mineral density. Osteoporosis International, 12(9), 732-737.
  6. Milman, N. (2011). Postpartum anemia I: definition, prevalence, causes, and consequences. Annals of hematology, 90(11), 1247-1253.
  7. Leung, A. M., Pearce, E. N., & Braverman, L. E. (2011). Iodine nutrition in pregnancy and lactation. Endocrinology and Metabolism Clinics, 40(4), 765-777.
  8. Rautava, S., Kainonen, E., Salminen, S., & Isolauri, E. (2012). Maternal probiotic supplementation during pregnancy and breastfeeding reduces the risk of eczema in the infant. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 130(6), 1355-1360.
  9. Caudill, M. A. (2010). Pre- and postnatal health: evidence of increased choline needs. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 110(8), 1198
  10. Bzikowska-Jura, A., Czerwonogrodzka-Senczyna, A., Olędzka, G., Szostak-Węgierek, D., Weker, H., & Wesołowska, A. (2018). Maternal Nutrition and Body Composition During Breastfeeding: Association with Human Milk Composition. Nutrients, 10(10), 1379.
  11. Anderson, P. O., & Valdés, V. (2017). A critical review of pharmaceutical galactagogues. Breastfeeding Medicine, 12(10), 607-614.
  12. Westerterp-Plantenga, M. S., Lejeune, M. P., & Kovacs, E. M. (2005). Body weight loss and weight maintenance in relation to habitual caffeine intake and green tea supplementation. Obesity research, 13(7), 1195-1204.
  13. Leung, A. M., Pearce, E. N., & Braverman, L. E. (2011). Iodine nutrition in pregnancy and lactation. Endocrinology and Metabolism Clinics, 40(4), 765-777.
  14. Pennington, J. A. T., & Douglass, J. S. (2005). Bowes & Church's food values of portions commonly used. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

 

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