Breastfeeding your baby may have some intake restrictions that lead to thoughts of what you should be taking, what favorite supplements you might have to put on hold for a while, and the list goes on. Those were my thoughts a few years ago.
I was worried about everything I was consuming. How much was enough, how much was too much, and what things I needed to avoid as a breastfeeding mother.
Before pregnancy, I was big on supplements and taking Vitamin C was a huge part of my daily routine. But now I wasn’t feeding just myself, but my baby too. This definitely raised some concern for me.
Can I take Vitamin C while breastfeeding? The expert answer is yes. Breastfeeding mothers can take Vitamin C while nursing.
It is one of the recommended vitamins for lactating mothers because it is a normal component and a key antioxidant in breast milk.
Summary of today’s article:
- Is it safe to take vitamin C while breastfeeding?
- How can taking vitamin C impact breastfeeding mother and baby?
- How does vitamin C affect breast milk?
- What if I don’t take enough vitamin C while breastfeeding?
- What are the risks of taking vitamin C while breastfeeding?
- Get your intake of vitamin C
Vitamin C also known as ascorbic acid is a water soluble vitamin found in various foods and available as a dietary supplement. It is an essential nutrient involved in repairing tissues and the production of muscle and collagen in bones.
You may have taken Vitamin C in the past but now that you are breastfeeding, you may be asking if it is safe to continue taking it. The answer is yes.
You can rest assured with certainty that taking this vitamin is safe for breastfeeding mothers and in fact, most doctors recommend that mothers continue taking prenatal vitamins, which does include Vitamin C, while breastfeeding their babies. Nursing mothers will need more Vitamin C than they did during pregnancy, and while some mothers will get the extra amount from diet, it is also safe to take it as a dietary supplement.
How Much Vitamin C Is Safe To Take While Breastfeeding?
Your body does not produce its own Vitamin C, so how much you receive, will be dependent on your intake only. According to the National Institute of Health the suggested amount for breastfeeding mothers 18 and under is 115 mg daily, and 120 mg daily for breastfeeding mothers 19 and older.
If you have a known deficiency in Vitamin C, your doctor may suggest that you take a higher dosage to get the required amount. Thanks to our kidneys which control the amount of Vitamin C in the body and keeps it at the right level, our body eliminates the excess when we urinate, so in general if you exceed your daily requirements it is still safe.
As noted by Medline, the upper tolerable limit for women younger than 19 is 1800 mg per day and for women 19 and older it is 2000 mg per day. When deciding the safest and most adequate amount of Vitamin C for you, the best approach is to work with your doctor, who may consider other factors such as your diet, current health status, and other supplements or medications you may be taking.
Vitamin C is one of the most vital nutrients for the body. Because it is a water soluble vitamin, when taken by a nursing mother, the nutrient passes into her breast milk and impacts her breastfeeding baby as well.
Vitamin C plays a very important role in the normal growth and development of breastfeeding babies. In addition, research shows that babies who consume breast milk containing high levels of Vitamin C, may be at a decreased risk of developing childhood allergies.
Here are some more advantages for you and your baby that comes from the consumption of Vitamin C while breastfeeding:
- Assisting in the growth of bones, teeth and collagen
- Helping in the production of a protein found in blood vessels, cartilage, tendons and ligaments
- Protecting the cells in your body and keeping them healthy
- Improving the healing of wounds and reducing inflammation. It also helps to stop excessive scarring
- Aiding your body to absorb iron which is a vital mineral for red blood cell production
- Boosting your immune system to better fight off diseases, potentially including cancer
- Increasing your body’s ability to fight off bacteria and viruses that commonly causes cold,flu, pneumonia, malaria and other illnesses
- Helping to prevent and treat infections in the body
- Promoting healthier and smoother looking skin by helping to prevent wrinkles, dry skin, sagging skin, and dark spots
- Helping to protect the body from free radicals like ultraviolet rays from the sun (which causes premature aging of the skin), and environmental pollutants
- It is also likely that Vitamin C can help to treat mastitis, a disease that often occurs in breastfeeding mothers, when a milk duct is blocked and does not clear out on its own, or bacteria enters the breast causing inflamed and painful breast tissues
Your baby gets Vitamin C from your breast milk. But how does your intake of this vitamin actually affect your breast milk?
Research shows that mothers who consume high levels of vitamin C, (including those who take more than the recommended amount) generally will not harm their babies. This is because your body carefully regulates the amount of vitamin C that gets into your breast milk.
The National Library of Medicine states that daily doses up to 1000 mg may increase breast milk supply in lactating mothers. On the contrary, it also notes that the maternal dosages in prenatal vitamins at or near the recommended intake do not alter milk supply, or the vitamin C concentration in breast milk.
However, when a mother intakes vitamin C in her diet, it causes an increased level of the vitamin in her breast milk within 30 minutes of consumption. This increase in vitamin C will not be a health concern for the breastfeeding baby.
Further impact may be different between healthy mothers and poorly nourished mothers. Let’s take a look at both:
- In healthy mothers dietary vitamin C usually increases the milk level to a certain point and then continues at a steady flow. Studies show that Vitamin C supplements do not appear to increase the vitamin C concentration in the breast milk of healthy mothers. However, taking 500 mg of vitamin C daily in a combination with 100 units of Vitamin E, positively improves the antioxidant levels of breast milk.
- Poorly nourished mothers who intake an increased amount of dietary Vitamin C will have a more vigorous increase in milk levels. Mothers who are lacking or have a very low level of Vitamin C may also benefit greatly from a supplement form of Vitamin C, as studies have shown that it can double or triple the Vitamin C concentration in their breast milk.
Therefore the concentration of Vitamin C in your breast milk will remain at the optimal level for your breastfeeding baby as long as you are consuming enough Vitamin C.
In addition to supplements, we get vitamin C from many foods including citrus fruits, peppers, kiwifruit, broccoli, strawberries, brussels sprouts, and cantaloupe. A deficiency in breastfeeding mothers and babies are very rare but some circumstances may cause higher risk such as: eating a diet very limited in a variety of foods, and having certain medical conditions such as severe malabsorption, kidney disease and some types of cancer.
People who get less than 10 mg per day for many weeks, can get scurvy. Scurvy causes inflammation of the gums, fatigue, loosening teeth, joint pain, poor wound healing, and small red or purple spots on the skin.
While taking higher than the recommended dosage of Vitamin C will not harm the nursing baby, it could have some unwanted side effects for breastfeeding mothers. Exceeding the upper tolerable limit of more than 2000 mg daily may cause side effects including:
- Upset stomach
- Stomach cramps
- Intestinal gas
- Developing Kidney Stones
MedlinePlus recommends consuming less than 1000 mg per day if you suffered from kidney stones in the past, to lower your risk of recurrence. Excess vitamin C exits the body through urine and is not stored in fat cells and other tissues.
For this reason it does not cause long term side effects.
What you consume has always mattered and now that you are breastfeeding, it may matter more than ever. Your little one gets vital nutrients from your breast milk, so it’s only natural that you concern yourself with the supplements that you take including Vitamin C.
Getting the facts to make the right call for your situation is always a good decision. Whether you are supplementing, getting it from food sources, or both, Vitamin C is a vital nutrient that should be included in your diet.
If you want to take higher than the recommended dosage amount, it is a good idea to speak with your healthcare provider.