Breastfeeding: How much calcium is needed while nursing?

I am breastfeeding my 13-month-old son. I have read that lactational bone loss occurs even with adequate calcium intake of 1000 to 2000 milligrams per day. How much calcium is necessary for nursing moms?

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Sue Gilbert

Sue Gilbert works as a consulting nutritionist. For many years she worked with Earth's Best Organic Baby Food, integrating nutrition and... Read more

A nursing mom needs about 1200 mg. of calcium per day. Which is equivalent to the amount found in four glasses of low fat milk. If your calcium intake falls below the recommended level, then your body will draw on bone stores of calcium, thus depleting your bones. Also, it seems that even with adequate calcium intake, some bone loss will occur. The fact that a nursing mom is low in the hormone estrogen means that some calcium will be mobilized from the bone. This is similar to what occurs during menopause when estrogen levels fall.

A study found that calcium supplements don't help to prevent bone loss in nursing moms. The good news is that most bone loss that occurs with breastfeeding reverses after you stop nursing, whether or not you boost your calcium intake with supplements. This reversal is usually complete within six months of weaning. This bone loss is temporary and appears to have no long-term negative effects on bone density.

New guidelines recommend that pregnant and nursing women simply consume the level of calcium recommended for their age group. If you are getting adequate calcium from your diet, than supplementation isn't necessary.

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