Should I Take Vitamin D While Breastfeeding?
Get the inside scoop on vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy, nursing, and beyond. This includes vitamin D supplementationin a breastfed infant, and the importance of infant formulafortified with the nutrient.
By OBGYN and fertility expert Dr. Kenosha Gleaton
Pregnancy and breastfeeding take up a lot of your nutrients, which is why it’s necessary to find the right diet for your body. Let’s dive into what vitamin D does for you and your baby, and how much you should be taking during and after breastfeeding, especially if you're a breastfeeding mother.
The 411 on Vitamin D
Vitamin D, AKA the “sunshine vitamin” is vital for healthy teeth, strong bones health, and proper immune function. This nutrient can be obtained through sunlight, diet, and vitamin D supplementationsuch as vitamin D dropsor capsules.
A NHANES study found that nearly 40% of Americanshave low vitamin Dlevels, making them vitamin D deficient.1Vitamin D deficiency is more common during pregnancy, especially among high-risk groups such as vegetarians, women with limited sun exposure, and people with darker skin.2Black women and women with darker pigment are even more susceptible to vitamin D deficiency and often require higher doses of vitamin D due to decreased absorption through the skin.3 The vitamin D statusin these high-risk groups can be improved with adequate vitamin Dintake, which could be achieved with a daily supplement.
Should I Keep Taking Vitamin D After Pregnancy?
Vitamin D can absolutely be supplemented after pregnancy. If you’re nursing or at a higher risk for vitamin D deficiency, it’s even more important that you keep an eye on your vitamin D intake. Maternal supplementationcan be necessary if there's a risk of vitamin D insufficiency in the breastfed baby.
Most experts agree that vitamin D supplements are safe in dosages up to 4,000 IU per day during pregnancy and lactation.2(These yummy D3 gummiescontain 1,000 IU each!) This is why a prenatal vitaminoften contains supplemental vitamin D.If you’re not breastfeeding or pregnant, the RDA for Vitamin D is around 600 IU, with an upper intake limit of 4,000 IU.2,4
Learn more about vitamin D and fertilitywith our comprehensive article.
Benefits of Vitamin D Supplementation While Breastfeeding
Because you share a lot of your nutrients while breastfeeding, it’s important to consume an extra 400-500 calories a day of healthy, vitamin-rich foods. Supplementing with doctor-approved postnatal vitamins is a great way to ensure that you’re receiving all the nutrients needed to support your health and the health of your baby.
Research shows that prolonged breastfeeding without vitamin D supplementation can cause rickets in infants. Rickets softens the bones and can lead to bowed legs, mobility delays, and soft skulls.6
Taking a vitamin D supplement while breastfeeding helps strengthen teeth and bones and can improve immune function of both baby and mama. In addition to getting vitamin D from breast milk, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfed infants get 400 IU supplement per day of vitamin D beginning in the first few days of life. They recommend babies continue Vitamin D supplementation until the infant is weaned to at least 1 liter per day of vitamin D–fortified formula.5
Taking a vitamin D supplement while breastfeeding helps strengthen teeth and bones and can improve immune function of both baby and mama.
How Much Vitamin D to Take While Breastfeeding
So, how much vitamin D should you take during pregnancy? Vitamin D level recommendations while lactating are equal to those during pregnancy. The consensus from most experts is that vitamin D supplements are safe in dosages up to 4,000 IU a day.2Luckily, Natalist D3 gummies contain 1,000 IU each, are naturally sweetened, and taste great. You can also find an optimal dose of vegan vitamin D3 in our women’s prenatal supplement or postnatal multivitamin.
How Long Should I Take Vitamin D?
There’s really no definite time frame to take vitamins, as long as you’re staying within healthy limits.7Depending on your sun exposure and regular diet, taking a vitamin D supplement could be a great habit to keep up post-pregnancy and breastfeeding. Maternal preferencemay dictate the choice of whether to continue vitamin D supplementationafter weaning. Once weaning is complete, consider checking your vitamin D levels through a simple lab test to see if you need continued supplementation. If you take a multivitamin already, find out how much vitamin D it contains, and supplement with an extra vitamin D gummy if necessary. Note that low levelsof vitamin D have been linked with certain mental healthissues.8Always consult your doctor if you have any questions.
- Vitamin D is also known as the “sunshine vitamin” and is vital for healthy teeth, bones, and immune function.
- Vitamin D supplementation is safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding in daily dosages up to 4,000 IU.
- Vitamin D deficiency in infants can lead to rickets, which is why it’s important to supplement your diet during pregnancy and lactation.
- Parva NR, Tadepalli S, Singh P, et al. Prevalence of Vitamin D Deficiency and Associated Risk Factors in the US Population (2011-2012). Cureus. 2018;10(6). doi:https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.2741
- Committee on Obstetric Practice. Vitamin D: Screening and Supplementation During Pregnancy. www.acog.org. Published July 2011. https://www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/committee-opinion/articles/2011/07/vitamin-d-screening-and-supplementation-during-pregnancy
- Hollis BW, Johnson D, Hulsey TC, Ebeling M, Wagner CL. Vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy: Double-blind, randomized clinical trial of safety and effectiveness. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. 2011;26(10):2341-2357. doi:https://doi.org/10.1002/jbmr.463
- Ross C. Read “Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D” at NAP.edu. The National Academies Press; 2011. https://www.nap.edu/read/13050/chapter/1
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Maternal Diet . Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published August 27, 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-special-circumstances/diet-and-micronutrients/maternal-diet.html
- Office of Dietary Supplements - Vitamin D. ods.od.nih.gov. Published August 12, 2022. Accessed July 31, 2023. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/#en46
- National Institutes of Health. Nutrient Recommendations : Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI). ods.od.nih.gov. Published 2019. https://ods.od.nih.gov/HealthInformation/Dietary_Reference_Intakes.asp
- Penckofer S, Kouba J, Byrn M, Estwing Ferrans C. Vitamin D and Depression: Where is all the Sunshine? Issues in Mental Health Nursing. 2010;31(6):385-393. doi:https://doi.org/10.3109/01612840903437657