Most breastfeeding women receive adequate Vitamin B from their diet, meaning that most exclusively breastfed infants receive adequate amounts of B vitamins through their breast milk intake.
This article looks at the importance of Vitamin B while breastfeeding.
B vitamins – essential for nursing mothers and babies
There are many different types of Vitamin B.
- Vitamin B1 (thiamin)
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
- Vitamin B3 (niacin)
- Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
- Vitamin B7 (biotin)
- Vitamin B9 (folate and folic acid)
- Vitamin B12.
Research suggests that Vitamin B12 deficiency in breastfeeding mothers might contribute to Vitamin B12 deficiency anemia or serious, irreversible developmental problems in infants.
Fat soluble vitamins, such as Vitamin D and Vitamin E, transfer into human milk easily and increase the levels of that vitamin available to the breastfed infant.
B vitamins are water soluble vitamins, which are more variable in their transmission into breast milk.
Most breastfeeding mothers get all of the Vitamin B they need from a healthy diet.
Recommended amounts of Vitamin B while breastfeeding for mothers
The recommended dietary intake of Vitamin B12 for a breastfeeding mother is 2.8 mcg per day.
The recommended dietary intake of Vitamin B6 for breastfeeding women is 2 mg per day.
Deficiencies in B vitamins are usually associated with other nutrient deficiencies.
Studies have found that the breast milk of lactating women with depleted Vitamin B1, B2, B6 and B12 was also lower in these B vitamins, meaning that increased maternal intake or maternal supplementation of these vitamins reliably increased the amount in breast milk.
Levels of Vitamin B9 in breast milk remained stable, regardless of the maternal vitamin intake. A multivitamin supplement usually contains enough of each variant to avoid Vitamin B deficiency.
How much Vitamin B12 is safe while breastfeeding?
The typical dose of Vitamin B12 in a prenatal supplement is 4 mcg. In cases of Vitamin B12 deficiency, higher daily doses of 50 to 250 mcg are required.
In cases of higher maternal supplementation, due to deficiency, breastfed infants are not exposed to excessive or dangerous amounts through breast milk.
What if you are Vitamin B12 deficient?
Symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency can include:
- Extreme lethargy
- Muscle weakness
- Pins and needles
- Mouth ulcers
- Disturbed vision
- Psychological problems.
Vitamin B12 is essential for normal brain development in infants. If left untreated, Vitamin B12 deficiency in infants can lead to permanent brain damage.
What are the best vitamin supplements for breastfeeding mothers?
Many women continue to take their prenatal vitamins after giving birth.
Prenatal vitamins for pregnant women are also safe for breastfeeding mothers.
A nutritional supplement works by providing the body with certain nutrients a breastfeeding mother might not be getting from her diet alone.
Which foods contain Vitamin B?
Good food sources of Vitamin B include:
- Beef, chicken and liver or other organ meats
- Fish, such as salmon, tuna and trout
- Fortified breakfast cereals
- Dark green leafy vegetables, such as kale and spinach
- Citrus fruits, such as oranges and lemons. Citrus fruits are also a good source of Vitamin C.
You can read more about Vitamin C and breastfeeding in BellyBelly’s article Vitamin C While Breastfeeding | Why It Is Important.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet that includes some or all of the above foods each day can avoid the need for dietary supplements.
In some cases, nursing women who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, which does not include any animal products, might require nutritional supplements.
What does Vitamin B6 do?
Vitamin B6 helps the body use the energy stored from proteins and carbohydrates in food.
It also helps normal neurotransmission function.
A breastfeeding mother typically receives enough Vitamin B6 from a normal, healthy diet to ensure her breast milk provides adequate Vitamin B6 for her baby.
Can Vitamin B6 supplements help postnatal depression?
Because Vitamin B6 helps build neurotransmitters, it can help to release serotonin and protect the brain and body from the effects of stress.
For this reason, Vitamin B6 is sometimes recommended in the treatment of postnatal depression.
Talk to your healthcare provider if you are experiencing thoughts of anxiety or depression.
You can also read BellyBelly’s article Postpartum Depression Symptoms | 9 Signs You Have PPD.
Can vitamin B6 help nipple vasospasm?
Vasospasm occurs when blood vessels tighten, resulting in impaired blood flow to extremities of the body, which often affects the fingers and toes.
Nipple vasospasm can occur in breastfeeding women.
You can read more about this in BellyBelly’s article Vasospasm | Symptoms And Treatments For Vasospasm.
Vitamin B6 is thought by health professionals to help relieve the symptoms of vasospasm when taken as part of a B complex vitamin supplement.
If there is no improvement in the symptoms of vasospasm after taking Vitamin B6 in supplement form, stop taking it and seek advice from an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.
High doses of Vitamin B6 might affect breast milk supply or milk production in lactating mothers.
Can B vitamins help cure thrush?
There has been research to show that the use of a Vitamin B supplement is effective as an adjuvant treatment for vaginal thrush
Breast or nipple thrush can sometimes present the same symptoms as vasospasm. For this reason, vasospasm is sometimes mistakenly diagnosed as breast or nipple thrush.
Before taking a vitamin supplements to treat thrush, visit your GP for a confirmed diagnosis. Your doctor will be able to send a swab to pathology for diagnosis and advise you on the best course of treatment.