Getting enough calcium when breastfeeding

You don’t need milk to make milk!

Calcium is really important for maintaining our bones and teeth, our muscle function and a whole host of other processes within the body. It’s important after you’ve grown a baby that you put the calcium back through your diet. If you don’t eat enough, your body will take it from your bones to ensure your baby is getting enough in the milk, the breast milk comes first!  Even if you aren’t breastfeeding, your supplies of calcium will be low because during pregnancy the demand for calcium was high. Before you reach for the calcium supplements read on, you can get everything you need from food!

It may be surprising to know that vegetables are a great source of calcium. The amount of calcium in vegetables may not be as concentrated as the typically known sources like cow’s milk, but it is often more bioavailable (which means easier for our body to use). Calcium from veg like broccoli, cabbage, and kale is absorbed twice as easily as that from dairy. Milk and cheese, like all animal protein, acidifies inside you after digestion, and if it’s too acidic inside our bodies take calcium from our bones to rebalance this acidic environment. Studies have shown that drinking milk can actually cause bone loss – it’s not a good source of calcium.

These foods are rich in calcium and also have lots of other nutritional benefits to keep you (and your breast milk) healthy:

  • Dark green leafy and cruciferous vegetables
  • Kale, collards, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, Brussel sprouts
  • Almonds, sesame seeds
  • Soybeans; tofu
  • Dried figs
  • Sardines and salmon (including the small bones!)

You need almost double the amount of calcium when breastfeeding as before, so stock up on green leafy veg every day! Try a smoothie with spinach, pineapple and avocado, or a stir fry with lots of kale & broccoli with ginger, garlic and sesame seeds.

You also need Vitamin D to absorb calcium, the NHS recommends taking a supplement with at least 10mcg a day (400IU). Make sure it’s got Vitamin D3 in it not D2 because D2 can’t be used easily within the body. Many people can benefit from taking Vitamin D anyway especially during the winter months when we can’t get it from the sunshine. Most calcium supplements are not well absorbed by the body, food is a better way of increasing your calcium levels.

If you eat lots of animal protein (meat, poultry, fish, cheese), drink lots of coffee or tea and add salt to everything, then you’ll need even more leafy green veg as these factors reduce the amount of calcium in the body!

If you’ve found this article useful please share with others, and look out for more posts with nutrition support for new parents soon! Email us with any questions on info@the-gentle-touch.com

Anna Mapson

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