By Wendy Colson, RN, IBCLC, RLC
You were consistent with your prenatal vitamins all throughout pregnancy and now as a breastfeeding mama want to know- should you take vitamins while breastfeeding?
You know from growing a healthy baby that the best way to provide your baby nutrition is through a well balanced, healthy diet. Now that you are breastfeeding, the same goes from breastfeeding vitamins. Ideally you are able to achieve what you need through your diet, but as mom life ensues you may find it difficult to get in everything you need (let alone find the time to remember to eat!) A lactation supplement can be a great booster and act as a good “insurance policy” to fill in any gaps in your diet and help enhance the quality of your health. Many moms struggle with low milk supply, hair loss and immunity and ensuring that you don’t have any gaps in your diet by taking a high quality lactation supplement can help prevent these frustrating challenges.
What Supplements Should I Take While Breastfeeding?
The general recommendation is to continue taking your prenatal during postpartum and breastfeeding since your nutrient needs are higher overall. This will help ensure that you are meeting your basic needs. Since many vitamins and minerals are what is known as “water soluble” if you take them in high dosages but your body doesn’t need them they will just be excreted in your urine- so it’s best to be strategic and work with your health care provider when thinking about specific supplements!
Here’s some of the commonly used ingredients in lactation supplements:
- Elderberry is an herb that is most commonly touted to help ward off common cold symptoms. There are no concerns around elderberry use during breastfeeding and no adverse effect on lactation so go for it mama and use what you need to ward off those kiddo germs!
- Biotin, also known as Vitamin H helps convert certain nutrients into energy and plays an important role in the health of your hair, nails and skin. Supplementing with this nutrient is safe and can help support the regrowth of that lustrous pregnancy hair.
- Zinc is an essential postpartum nutrient that not only can help protect you from getting sick but can impact your energy and repair tissues after birth. Can you take zinc while breastfeeding? Yes, many women enter postpartum depleted of this nutrient so supplementing with zinc while breastfeeding and adding in food sources such as pumpkin seeds, animal foods (meat and shellfish) as well as beans and seeds are safe.
- Collagen is a protein that is growing in popularity given its role in protecting the framework of cells and tissue in the body. As we age we naturally lose collagen and begin to produce less. Studies show that collagen while breastfeeding may be safe for non pregnant/breastfeeding women to take however there isn’t specific research on the safety of collagen while breastfeeding at this time. You can focus on adding in collagen rich food sources such as slow cooked meat on the bone (chicken thighs, ribs, etc), bone broth and general protein rich foods such as animal and dairy products which contain proteins.
- Moringa, Turmeric and Cinnamon are all commonly used herbs during breastfeeding and are breastfeeding superfoods that are safe for lactation. You can use moringa to support a healthy milk supply, add turmeric when cooking spiced dishes such as curries and add cinnamon to oatmeal and baked goods.
What Supplements or Vitamins Should I Avoid While Breastfeeding?
When looking for the best lactation supplement, aim to find:
- Vitamins/supplements that are USP or NSF verified, this means the product has been safely tested
- A bottle and packaging that has not been tampered with or is unsealed, opened, cracked etc
- Any vitamins/minerals that are high dosages (also known as mega dosing) should be avoided.
It’s always best to check specific supplements for lactation or breastfeeding with your health care provider to ensure that it can meet your specific needs.
When in doubt, the best foundation is going to be arming yourself with a well balanced diet that supplies a variety of nutrients. On days where it seems like it’s hard to catch up, adding in lactation boosters can allow you to fill in the gaps and support your body and your baby with the best nutrition possible.