Breastfeeding and Vitamin Supplementation

Good Nutrition for You and Your Baby while Breastfeeding 

Good nutrition plays a key role in your baby’s health, and breastfeeding is one of the best things you can do to support your baby’s growth and development. If you decide to breastfeed, you should be aware that moms who breastfeed have unique nutrient needs ... different from during pregnancy or any other time in a woman’s life.  

The best place to start is eating a variety of nutrient-rich foods. Typically, you need to eat a little bit more each day (about 500 calories, which is an extra snack or two) to support your baby’s nutrition needs along with your own. Choose colorful vegetables and fruits to get a variety of vitamins and antioxidants, calcium-rich foods like milk, yogurt, cheese, fortified soy milk or tofu, leafy greens and beans, and protein-rich options like fish, lean poultry, beef, and eggs. Whole, unprocessed grains like oatmeal, brown or wild rice, and quinoa are rich in magnesium and fiber. Stay well hydrated with water, milk, and 100% juice. 

The nutritional quality and content of breastmilk is remarkably consistent. This is because even when your nutrition is inadequate, nutrients are pulled from your body so that your breastmilk meets your baby’s needs. So, much like taking a prenatal, a nutritional supplement for breastfeeding moms provides added assurance that you are getting the nutrients you need for your own health as well as for the nourishment of your baby. 

TheraNatal Lactation Support is a new multivitamin and mineral supplement specifically formulated to meet your unique nutrient needs while breastfeeding. The daily dose of TheraNatal Lactation Support consists of one ‘Lactation’ tablet (essentially a multivitamin for your daily basic needs), one ‘Choline Plus’ tablet (with vitamins D, B6, and extra choline), and one 300 mg DHA softgel. The omega-3 fatty acid DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is important during pregnancy and lactation because of its role in infant brain and eye development. The amount of DHA in your breastmilk is directly related to the amount of DHA you take in, so it is important to get enough while you are breastfeeding. Good sources are fish low in mercury like wild-caught salmon and DHA supplements certified to be free of mercury, PCBs, and other contaminants, like the DHA softgel in TheraNatal. 

Several nutrients are needed in different amounts during lactation than during pregnancy. The amounts in TheraNatal Lactation Support reflect these key differences. TheraNatal Lactation Support contains slightly more vitamins A and C than most prenatals because more of these vitamins are needed for your breastmilk to meet your baby’s needs. 

TheraNatal Lactation Support contains 250 mg of choline to help meet your increased needs while breastfeeding. This nutrient is often left out of prenatals because it is bulky; however, it is estimated that only 10% of Americans get enough choline and so the ‘Choline Plus’ tablet helps meet this need. Breastmilk contains a substantial amount of choline to support baby’s growth and brain development, and so your choline requirement is higher during lactation than at any other time during your life.  

Although you needed more folic acid in early pregnancy to support your baby’s growth and neural tube development, your folic acid needs are lower during lactation. TheraNatal Lactation Support contains 400 mcg, less folic acid than most prenatals. There is some controversy about supplementing with high doses of folic acid for long periods of time, so it makes sense to take higher doses only before and during pregnancy, when it is really needed. 
Your iron needs are also much lower while breastfeeding than during pregnancy. If you are breastfeeding exclusively, you likely will not have your period for 4-6 months after giving birth. Without menstrual blood loss each month, your iron needs decrease. TheraNatal Lactation Support meets a typical woman’s iron needs while breastfeeding. However, if you are anemic after giving birth, you may need additional iron supplementation.  

TheraNatal Lactation Support contains 1000 IU of vitamin D3 to support your vitamin D needs, though this is likely not enough to fully meet your baby’s needs. Preliminary evidence suggests that adequate vitamin D in breast milk requires mothers to supplement with very high doses of vitamin D each day. However, it is not yet clear exactly how much vitamin D is needed. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that breastfed infants receive 400 IU vitamin D drops each day, so it is important that babies get enough, but not too much of this important nutrient.

TheraNatal Lactation Support contains 140 mg of calcium. Depending on how much calcium you get in your diet, you may need to add a calcium supplement (such as Theralogix CalMag Thins) to meet your daily needs. (Calculate your calcium needs with your doctor’s help or use the Theralogix Calcium Calculator available in one of our brochures or online at our website. ) During lactation, calcium in breast milk is drawn from your bones - regardless of your calcium intake. Bone mineral density decreases temporarily but generally returns to normal after you stop breastfeeding. A higher calcium intake once your baby is weaned may help to restore your bone mineral density.

As you continue to breastfeed and later start to introduce solid food, your baby will learn from you to make healthful choices and enjoy a variety of nutritious foods. Focusing on health and good nutrition throughout life is beneficial for you, your baby, and your entire family.

Contributed by Tiffany Graham, MPH, RD, LD and Sarah Williams, MHA, MPH, RD, LDN, both Registered Dietitians at Theralogix, LLC. Contact information: 301-610-9940 ext 4, or inquire@theralogix.com