Choosing to breastfeed your baby is a generous and noble decision. Breastfeeding is the healthiest way to feed a baby, yet it can also be more difficult than giving the baby bottles of formula. For example, breastfeeding mothers need to pay attention to their diet, as what they eat affects the baby. For a supplemental boost, Vitamin B12 is often taken by nursing mothers.
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Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that is naturally found in foods like fish, meat and dairy. The National Institutes of Health states that vitamin B12 is essential for allowing the body to make healthy red blood cells. It also helps to maintain the function of the nerves. When a person does not get enough of vitamin B12, he may exhibit signs of pernicious anemia, such as fatigue and easy bruising.
Babies with Vegan Mothers
Vitamin B12 deficiency is uncommon in breastfed babies, yet it is still a nutritional concern. Kelly Bonyata, an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant or IBCLC, states on her website that babies who are breastfed by mothers who eat meat and dairy are very rarely deficient in vitamin B12. Yet babies who are breastfed by vegetarian or vegan mothers may be at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency, if the mother herself does not get enough vitamin B12 in her diet.
Other Reasons for Supplementation
In addition to babies who are breastfed by vegetarian or vegan mothers who may be deficient in vitamin B12, there are other conditions that put a breastfed baby at risk. Kelly Bonyata explains that women who have had gastric bypass surgery may be deficient in vitamin B12 and may need to supplement. Any women who is deficient in vitamin B12, due to poor eating or any other reason, puts her baby at risk of the same deficiency.
According to the National Institutes of Health, vitamin B12 supplementation is perfectly safe for breastfeeding mothers to take, as long as they do not exceed the recommended dose. Babies themselves do not actually have to take the supplement, but as long as the mother supplements with vitamin B12, her baby will be safe and healthy.
The recommended dose of vitamin B12 for breastfeeding mothers is 2.8 micrograms, according to Kelly Bonyata, IBCLC. There are very few dietary supplements with exactly 2.8 micrograms of vitamin B12 in them, so breastfeeding mothers may need to take a vitamin B12 supplement with a slightly lower dose.