Staying healthy is essential for you and your baby, especially during cold and flu season. Building immunity by eating nutritious foods is a great place to start.
But sometimes (OK, all the time!) Life gets hectic, and eating is something you do between breastfeeding, working, and caring for other children.
To fill the gap, many breastfeeding women consider taking immune supplements in addition to their daily postnatal multivitamin.
But is it sure?
Here’s what you need to know about boosting immunity with supplements during pregnancy.
Taking a multivitamin while breastfeeding is something your doctor will likely discuss with you during a prenatal visit or your 6-week check-up.
Since many people continue to take their prenatal vitamin while breastfeeding, most of the essential nutrients needed during the postpartum period are already covered.
That said, there are some essential nutrients that breastfeeding mothers should make sure they are getting on a daily basis. According to Sherry Ross, MD, OB-GYN in Santa Monica, Calif., If you are breastfeeding, you should focus on the following essential nutrients:
- folic acid
- vitamin A
- vitamin B6
- vitamin B12
- vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- DHA – docosahexaenoic acid, a type of omega-3 fatty acid
To help boost immunity, check the label of your multivitamin for vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin B complex, probiotics, and zinc.
Some immune-boosting supplements also contain echinacea and elderberry, but according to the National Library of Medicine’s Medication and Breastfeeding Database, no data exist on the safety and effectiveness of.
Along with a multivitamin or supplemental supplements, making healthy food choices can also increase your nutrient intake. Mary Gollan, RD, Certified Lactation Consultant on the Preg Appetit! Team recommends that breastfeeding mothers follow these dietary guidelines when preparing a meal:
- 1/2 plate of fruits and vegetables
- 1/2 cup whole grains
- 3 ounces of lean protein
- dairy products at every meal
To help keep you energized and keep producing milk, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that breastfeeding mothers eat an additional 450 to 500 calories per day. Generally speaking, for most women, this equates to about 2,500 calories per day.
Whether or not you need to take supplements is a conversation you need to have with your doctor or a registered dietitian.
With that in mind, Ross says supplementing with certain immune-boosting supplements, in addition to a multivitamin, is safe as long as you take a well-established brand that provides safe dosages.
The key is not to exceed the recommended daily amount and only take supplements that have been proven safe to consume while breastfeeding.
Additionally, Rachel Borton, PhD, Director of the Family Nurse Practitioner Online Program and Assistant Professor of Nursing at Bradley University, reminds us that every mom and baby has a unique individual health story.
For this reason, you cannot assume that all over-the-counter supplements are safe to consume, as nursing mothers will also share the supplements through their breast milk with the infant.
“There are certain supplements that mothers want to avoid (for their own safety or for effects on milk production), and their provider will have the best knowledge of what is suitable for both mother and baby.” explains Borton.
- Security: Yes, vitamin C is safe while breastfeeding.
- Rising: 120 milligrams (mg) is the recommended daily amount for people who are breastfeeding.
- How does it help boost immunity: You need vitamin C for the growth and repair of all tissues. According to
clinical research, vitamin C may decrease the length of time you experience cold symptoms.
- Remember this: Most vitamin C supplements contain more than the amount recommended for breastfeeding people. Always consult your doctor before taking a vitamin C supplement.
- Consider buying: Nature’s Bounty Vitamin C.
- Security: Yes, it is safe to take vitamin D while breastfeeding.
- Rising: 600 IU (international units) is the recommended daily amount for people who are breastfeeding. That said, “getting your vitamin D levels checked is important to know how much supplementation is needed,” says Ross. Your doctor may recommend a different amount of supplementation per day, depending on the results of your blood tests.
- How does it help boost immunity: Vitamin D helps your immune system to function properly. And some
researchsays it can help reduce the risk of acute respiratory infections, especially in people with the deficiency.
- Consider buying: Garden of Life Vitamin D3
- Security: Yes, it is safe to take vitamin B complex while breastfeeding.
- Rising: The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) varies with vitamin B. Here is the RDA to consume daily while breastfeeding, according to the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health:
- B1 (thiamine): 1.4 mg
- B2 (riboflavin): 1.6 mg
- B3 (niacin): 17 mg NE (niacin equivalents)
- B5 (pantothenic acid): 7 mg
- B6 (pyridoxine): 2.0 mg
- B7 (biotin): 35 micrograms (mcg)
- B9 (folic acid): 600 mcg DFE (dietary folate equivalents)
- B12 (cobalamin): 2.8 mcg
- How does it help boost immunity: B vitamins are the building blocks of a healthy body, so they help you maintain overall good health. They work together to help maintain energy levels and strengthen the body’s defense system against germs.
- Consider buying: Garden of Life Raw B-Complex or Integrative Therapeutics Active B-Complex. Most B vitamin complex supplements contain more than the RDA for lactation. Always consult your doctor before taking a vitamin B supplement.
- Security: More reliable medical studies are needed to make recommendations on dosage and how it can potentially affect a nursing baby. There isn’t enough evidence to determine it’s safe for breastfeeding mothers – some medical studies say it’s safe while others say it should be avoided. Consult your doctor before taking echinacea.
- Rising: There are no dosage recommendations for echinacea while breastfeeding.
- How does it help boost immunity: Echinacea can help strengthen your immune system by fighting infections and viruses. According to
National Institute of Health (NIH)Echinacea may slightly reduce your chances of catching a cold.
- Security: Yes, probiotics are safe to take while breastfeeding.
- Rising: Probiotic supplements contain a wide variety of microorganisms and amounts. You will see the number of Colony Forming Units (CFUs) listed on the supplement labels. Ask your doctor or dietitian how much is safe to take while breastfeeding.
- How does it help boost immunity: “When it comes to breastfeeding, we know that breast milk contains healthy probiotics that are passed to the baby that help strengthen the gut flora that can protect against infection and help build an immune response,” says Ross.
- Consider buying: Immunity to Jetson probiotics. Ross says this product provides probiotics that can help boost your immune system and lower your risk of colds and upper respiratory infections. Also consider Garden of Life Dr. Formulated Probiotics once a day prenatal.
- Security: Like echinacea, Ross says elderberry is also controversial to take while breastfeeding. Some medical studies say it’s safe, while others say it should be avoided. More reliable medical studies are needed to make recommendations on dosage and how it can potentially affect a nursing baby. There is not enough evidence to determine the safety of elderberry for nursing mothers. Consult your doctor before taking elderberry.
- Rising: There are no dosage recommendations for elderberry while breastfeeding.
- How does it help boost immunity: According to
NIH, elderberry can relieve symptoms of the flu or other upper respiratory infections. A 2016 studyfound that elderberry can shorten the duration of a cold and reduce cold symptoms.
- Security: Yes, zinc is safe to take while breastfeeding.
- Rising: 12 mg is the recommended daily amount for nursing mothers. The
NIHsays the upper tolerable limit for adults is 40 mg.
- How does it help boost immunity: Zinc can help the immune system fight viruses and bacteria, according to the
- Consider buying: Garden of Life Raw Zinc, suggests Ross. It is important to note that although this product is below the upper limit for adults, it contains more zinc than what is recommended while breastfeeding. Talk to your doctor before adding extra zinc to your multivitamin.
Ross says dietary supplements like Airborne and Emergen-C are not recommended while breastfeeding because adequate medical studies have not been done to show their effectiveness and safety.
“The amount of vitamin C in Emergen-C exceeds the recommended dose for nursing mothers,” she adds.
If you’re worried about getting sick, Ross says it’s probably best to take a probiotic and eat a healthy, balanced diet to help prevent disease while breastfeeding.
Taking immune supplements while breastfeeding can benefit the health of both mother and baby. At a minimum, you should take a postpartum multivitamin or a product that contains the nutrients needed for breastfeeding.
If you want to take additional supplements, check safety and make sure you don’t exceed the recommended daily dose. But before taking any supplements while breastfeeding, be sure to talk to your doctor.