Vitamin D and Breastfeeding Mothers

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Megha Gupta (Paediatric Nutritionist)
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Vitamin D and Breastfeeding Mothers

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Breast milk is the best kind of milk for an infant, and it should be the only source of nutrients for a baby up until six months of age. Breast milk builds and develops a baby’s immune system, thus protecting him from many infections and diseases. It may also prove beneficial to the mother, as it reduces her chances of having breast cancer later in life. Mostly a mother is the sole provider of nutrition to her baby, hence she should make sure that she consumes a well-balanced diet, which includes vitamin D, among other nutrients. But sometimes, a diet alone may not suffice Vitamin D requirements of a mother and her growing baby.

Why Is Vitamin D Important for Breastfeeding Moms?

Vitamin D is essential for the healthy growth of bones, to fight against cardiovascular diseases, and to protect the body against autoimmune disorders and even certain types of cancers. In short, vitamin D is required for both mental and physical health of your baby. Therefore, in case a mother suffers from Vitamin D deficiency, it may increase the chances of her baby having vitamin D deficiency, too. This is because in the first few months after birth, breast milk is usually the only source of nutrition for a baby. Also, it has been observed that a baby’s vitamin D levels are directly related to the amount of vitamin D consumed by a nursing mother. In one scientific study, it was proved that any kind of increase in the consumption of this vitamin by a nursing mother showed increased amounts in the baby, too.

Why Is Vitamin D Important for Breastfeeding Moms?

Risks of Vitamin D Deficiency in Nursing Mothers

In the absence of Vitamin D in breast milk, your baby may suffer from low levels of this vital vitamin. Vitamin D deficiency in a breastfeeding mother ultimately affects her baby. This deficiency may hamper the development of your baby’s immune system, bone growth, calcium absorption, and muscle replication. Your baby may seem a tiny being, but it takes a lot to make this little human grow up into a healthy adult. Also, if you fall under the category of people who are more prone to vitamin deficiencies because you live in colder regions, have little sun exposure on a daily basis, or suffer from obesity and other such conditions, you need to be extra careful regarding the meeting of your vitamin D needs.

How to Raise Vitamin D Levels in Breast Milk

If you have lower levels of Vitamin D in your body, then it may be a wise decision to replenish your daily requirements by increasing your vitamin D intake. The best way to increase the levels of this vitamin in your body is through sun exposure. Bask in the sun for approximately 20 to 30 minutes a day. Your arms, legs, neck, and face should get enough sunlight, but cover your arms and neck with a thin cloth while enjoying the sun rays. You may have to increase your sun exposure if you have dark skin, because your body may take longer to synthesize this vitamin from the sunlight. You can also include vitamin D-rich foods in your diet, such as:

  • An egg – It will give you 40 IU
  • 3 oz of cooked salmon fish – 440 IU
  • 3 oz of cooked mackerel fish – 330 IU
  • 1 tablespoon of cod liver oil – 1360 IU
  • Cereals, orange juice, fortified milk, yoghurt, margarine, etc., may also provide you with ample vitamin D.

Recommended Daily Dose of Vitamin D

The daily requirement of Vitamin D for a female in the age bracket of 14 to 50 years is around 600 IU. The daily recommended dosage of vitamin D for a pregnant or a nursing mother is also approximately 600 IU. Your baby’s daily requirement of this essential vitamin from birth to one year of age is approximately 400 IU, and most of the vitamin D requirements of a baby will be met by the mother if the baby is exclusively on breast milk.

Should Lactating Mothers Take Vitamin D Supplements?

If a breastfeeding mother is unable to meet her daily requirements of Vitamin D through any of the dietary sources or through sun exposure, she may have to take supplements. Many studies had shown improved amounts of vitamin D levels in the baby when the mother took supplements. However, a breastfeeding mother should not take supplements by her will. It is advised that you consult a doctor, and if needed, he will prescribe the dosage of this vitamin in the correct amounts to be taken by you.

Can Excess Amount of Vitamin D Be Harmful?

This vitamin is very important for the nursing mother and her baby. However, excessive amounts of this vitamin in the body may lead to toxicity in the body, which can cause health complications in the mother and the baby. Therefore, in order to reduce the chances of toxicity, you should consume only the suggested amounts of Vitamin D while breastfeeding, and should not take any supplements without a prescription.

If you are unsure about whether you need extra vitamin D or not, consult your doctor, and find out. He will prescribe you the correct daily dose of this vitamin, if required. Happy nursing!

Also Read: Is It Safe to Eat Fish While Breastfeeding

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