Women who are pregnant and breastfeeding require additional amounts of certain nutrients. Most health care practitioners recommend taking prenatal vitamins or multivitamins during pregnancy and while breastfeeding to meet your nutritional needs and those of your baby. Calcium is a key nutrient during pregnancy and while you're breastfeeding.
During pregnancy, your calcium levels can become depleted, and you may even lose bone mass, according to the "Journal of Perinatal Education." Your developing child's bones continue to grow throughout your pregnancy. Your baby receives nutrients through you and your diet. If your diet is lacking in calcium, your baby will take all the calcium from you that he can get to help him grow. The same is true while you breastfeed.
Calcium loss can cause an array of conditions. If your body is deprived of calcium for long periods of time, you can lose bone mass, leaving your bones weak and brittle. Calcium helps keep them strong. Weak bones can make you more susceptible to developing fractures and breaks. Your teeth can become weak and break more easily while you're eating. Broken teeth can decay and even cut the inside of your mouth. Tooth decay leads to other complications such as gingivitis, which can lead to heart disease. If you are not getting enough calcium, your infant may not receive enough calcium for her bones to develop and grow properly.
The amount of calcium all women need is the same, regardless of whether you’re pregnant and nursing or not. Your body will adjust during pregnancy to make sure you and your baby have enough calcium, according to the "Journal of Perinatal Education." The main factor is whether you actually consume enough calcium. If your diet generally lacks calcium-rich foods, then you won't get enough calcium and neither will your baby. You need about 1,000 mg of calcium per day, which is equivalent to three to four servings of dairy foods. A serving of dairy equals one cup of milk, four diced cheese cubes, one cup of yogurt or one-third cup of almonds. To get three servings per day, you would need to consume three cups of milk or 12 diced cheese cubes.
If you’re lactose intolerant, consider alternate ways to incorporate calcium into your diet during pregnancy. Salmon, tofu, white beans and cabbage are rich in calcium. Talk to your health care provider about taking a prenatal vitamin, multivitamin or calcium supplement to ensure you and your baby get the calcium you need.