The Importance of Iron in the Breastfeeding Diet
Many women become anemic during pregnancy and due to childbirth because of blood loss and increased nutrient needs. But once a baby is born, it is very important to follow a healthy breastfeeding diet to supply both mother and baby with all of the essential vitamins and nutrients.
Mothers who have anemia can still breastfeed their babies, but iron supplementation may be needed for both the mother and baby to avoid anemia symptoms.
Here is some information about iron deficiency in lactating women and the importance of iron in the breastfeeding diet. This article will also include which vitamins for breastfeeding mothers are most commonly needed and why breastfeeding nutrition matters so much.
Anemia in Lactating Mothers
Maternal iron depletion is very common due to blood loss from childbirth, inadequate nutrient intake, and during lactation. Some new mothers believe that their symptoms of fatigue and low energy are due to post-partum depression. But these can actually be symptoms of anemia instead, which is often easily treatable with iron supplements and iron-rich foods.
When babies are healthy and carried to full term, they often have enough iron stores to last for at least six months. Many pediatricians agree that babies need iron supplements after six months of age. Iron is typically absorbed better in a baby’s body through breastmilk than from other sources because breastmilk also contains vitamin C to help with iron absorption. Babies will very rarely develop anemia just because their mothers have anemia.
However, if a baby is born prematurely, he or she is at a greater risk of iron deficiency anemia. Also, babies with low birth weights or who are fed cow’s milk instead of formula fortified with iron are at a higher risk of low iron levels.
Vitamins for Breastfeeding Mothers
Mothers who have low iron levels after giving birth should talk with their doctors about taking a high potency iron supplement, like Fergon, to support their own bodies and their babies. Nursing mothers should also eat a breastfeeding diet with iron-rich foods like leafy green vegetables, dried fruits, beef liver, and lentils. Consume a food or beverage that is high in vitamin C right before or after eating iron-rich foods to help with the absorption of iron in the mother’s body.
In addition to iron and vitamin C, other important vitamins for breastfeeding mothers are calcium and zinc. The intake of these minerals is for the benefit of the mother and do not typically affect breastmilk levels. New moms who are cutting back calories may need additional magnesium, vitamin B6, and vitamin E in their diets as well. For new moms wondering how to increase breast milk, consider switching breasts at least three times during each feeding, nursing more frequently, and add pumping sessions between nursing sessions.
Some new mothers continue taking prenatal vitamins while breastfeeding their babies to help prevent anemia, but these vitamins aren’t typically enough to treat an existing anemia condition. Proper dosage and length of treatment should be discussed with a doctor before taking any new supplement while breastfeeding a baby.
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