Most pregnant women take prenatal vitamins during pregnancy.
This is important for both maternal and infant health.
After giving birth, breastfeeding mothers might wonder which vitamin supplements they should be taking in the postpartum period.
Can you take vitamin A while you are breastfeeding?
Can you take Vitamin A while breastfeeding?
The recommended daily intake of vitamin A for lactating mothers is 1300 mcg. This is a significant increase from the recommended daily amount of 770 mcg for pregnant women.
Pregnant women should not take a vitamin A supplement in addition to their prenatal vitamins.
Vitamin A is important for a baby’s development but too much vitamin A during pregnancy can be harmful.
You can read more about this in BellyBelly’s article Vitamin A And Pregnancy.
It is safe for breastfeeding women to take up to 1500 mcg of vitamin A per day.
Do babies get vitamin A from human milk?
A relatively high amount of vitamin A is passed through breast milk. That’s why maternal vitamin A requirements increase in lactating women.
Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin.
Fat soluble vitamins, such as vitamin A, vitamin D and vitamin E, transfer more easily into breast milk than water soluble vitamins, such as vitamin B and vitamin C.
Unless a breastfeeding mother has a vitamin A deficiency, a breastfed infant gets enough vitamin A from breast milk.
Seek advice from your healthcare provider if you think you have a vitamin A deficiency.
Why is vitamin A important during breastfeeding?
The amount and types of vitamins found in breast milk are related to a breastfeeding mother’s diet.
Vitamin A plays an important role in normal vision, cell division, growth, reproduction and immunity.
Vitamin A occurs naturally in animal based products, such as liver, egg yolks, milk and butter.
In addition to this, the body converts certain carotenoids to vitamin A. Carotenoids are found in leafy greens and orange vegetables, such as carrots and sweet potato.
This form of vitamin A is not harmful in pregnant or lactating women.
The health benefits of carotenoids are enhanced immune function and protection from disease.
These are vitally important factors for optimal infant health.
Does retinol pass through breast milk?
Vitamin supplements usually provide vitamin A as retinyl esters, which are converted to retinol.
Care should be taken to make sure there is not an excessive intake of vitamin A in this form (retinol), especially during pregnancy.
Retinol in skin care products is poorly absorbed through the skin, and is not generally a concern for pregnant women or breastfeeding mothers.
Vitamin A supplementation increases breast milk retinol levels
A number of studies involving breastfeeding mothers with Vitamin A deficiency have shown that women taking vitamin A supplementation had increased retinol concentrations in breast milk, compared with a placebo group, in a postpartum period of 1-3 months.
One of the largest of these studies was conducted in Ghana, Peru and India, where vitamin A deficiency is common. The study involved giving vitamin supplements or a placebo to 2990 lactating women, to measure the increase in vitamin A in their breast milk.
The average breast milk retinol concentration was similar in both groups prior to maternal supplementation. At 2 months postpartum, the number of breastfeeding women with low serum retinol concentration (indicating low levels of vitamin A in breast milk) was 49% in the treatment group, compared with 79% in the placebo group.
This showed that for women with vitamin deficiencies, taking dietary supplements can increase the amount of vitamins available to their breastfed babies.
Which vitamin supplements are safe to take while breastfeeding?
There is conflicting advice about maternal supplementation and vitamin levels in breast milk.
Generally speaking, unless a mother has a diagnosed deficiency, her breast milk contains all the essential vitamins and minerals her baby needs, without the need for other nutritional supplements.
However, vitamin A, as well as vitamins C, D, E and folic acid are also generally compatible with breastfeeding.
Before taking vitamin or dietary supplements, breastfeeding mothers should consult with their healthcare providers and ask for advice.