Breastfeeding: Are vitamins needed while nursing?
I have a four month old daughter whom I plan to breastfeed for at least one year. I just ran out of my prenatal vitamin supplements and I wonder if I should get more. My diet isn't perfect (three meals a day plus snacks, but not terribly healthy ones!). Should I continue to take vitamins while breastfeeding?Question:
If you are unsure about the quality of your diet, it would be good insurance to take a multivitamin supplement, particularly while nursing. But first, make an effort to improve your eating habits. Instead of chocolate, try making a trail mix that contains a few chocolate chips (to satisfy your craving) but also some dried fruits, nuts, seeds and whole-grain cereal.
Other good snacks include mini-whole-wheat bagels, graham crackers, all fruits, nuts, pretzels, air-popped popcorn, fruit smoothies, low-fat milkshakes, low-fat cheese, juice spritzers, veggie sticks like carrots and peppers and hummus. The levels of some vitamins and minerals in breast milk can be reflective of the amount in Mom's diet, particularly if the diet is poor.
Ideally you will get all the nutrients you need from making healthy food choices. It's best this way, because foods come with lots more than just the nutrients put into a supplement pill. Broccoli, for example, comes with vitamin C and vitamin A (which are in the pill) plus fiber and phytochemicals (that aren't in the pill). If you do eat well, then taking a supplement simply becomes redundant, and also a waste of money.
If you feel it necessary to take a supplement, there is no need to continue with the more expensive prenatal vitamin. Instead, choose a women's multivitamin and mineral supplement that provides no more than 100 percent of your daily need. Be sure to choose one that at least contains calcium, B6, zinc, magnesium and folic acid. These are most apt to be deficient in the diet of a nursing mom.
Other important nutrients to get include iron, vitamin E and thiamin and riboflavin. Most other nutrients are easier to get in your diet. Some vitamins and minerals in excess may increase their content in breast milk to an undesirable level, which is potentially unsafe for your baby. The nutrients that may be harmful if overconsumed as a supplement include vitamin B6, vitamin D, iodine and selenium. You need them in your diet, just not in excess. Vitamins and minerals generally do not fall into the category of "if a little is good, a lot is better."