As a breastfeeding mother, you probably think about everything you consume in terms of the effect it will have on your breastfed baby. If you eat a lot of fruits and vegetables high in vitamin C or take supplements with this nutrient, you might wonder whether high doses could affect you or your infant. In general, high doses of vitamin C won't harm your child, but they could cause unpleasant side effects or simply be a waste of money for you.
Vitamin C Positive Effects
Vitamin C plays a role in tissue growth and repair, making it essential for proper development of a breastfeeding infant. It is especially important in the growth of bones, teeth and collagen, a protein found in blood vessels, cartilage, tendons and ligaments. It also helps boost the immune system's ability to fight off disease. Vitamin C occurs in many fruits and vegetables, including citrus fruits, berries, bell peppers and tomatoes, and you can also consume it in supplement form. As a water-soluble vitamin, this nutrient passes into breast milk, so your intake impacts your breastfed baby.
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Dosage and Needs for Mom
The body cannot produce its own vitamin C, so you and your baby must both get this vital nutrient from diet. While nursing a baby, you will need more vitamin C than you did during pregnancy or before having your baby. The amount recommended for breastfeeding women, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, is 120 milligrams per day.
Effect on Human Milk
Nursing mothers who consume more than the recommended amount of vitamin C are unlikely to harm their infants because the mother's body seems to tightly control the amount of vitamin C that gets into breast milk. A study in "Food and Nutrition Bulletin" following hundreds of nursing mothers from 1998 - 2000 shows that there is a direct correlation of maternal vitamin C intake and vitamin C concentration in breastmilk. However, according to a different study in the April 1985 issue of "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition," breastfeeding mothers who took more than 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C, about 10 times the recommended dose, did not experience an increased level of vitamin C in their breast milk. Instead, as long as the mother is getting sufficient vitamin C, the concentration of this nutrient in breast milk remains at the optimal level for the nursing infant. Any excess vitamin C is excreted through the mother's urine.
Doses of more than 2,000 milligrams per day can lead to upset stomach, diarrhea or intestinal gas. Because excess vitamin C leaves the body and isn't stored in fat or other tissues, it does not cause long-term effects. However, taking extra vitamin C in supplement form is likely to be a waste of money, since the kidneys simply remove it from the body.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Effects of Different Levels of Vitamin C Intake on the Vitamin C Concentration in Human Milk and the Vitamin C Intakes of Breastfed Infants
- American Pregnancy Association: What's In Breast Milk?
- Linus Pauling Institute: Vitamin C
- Effect of maternal dietary vitamin C intake on the level of vitamin C in breastmilk