How Much Calcium Does A Breastfeeding Mother Need?
What is Calcium?
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. Almost 99% of calcium is stored in the skeleton (bone). The remaining calcium can be found in the teeth (0.6%), body’s soft tissues (0.6%), plasma (0.03%) and extracellular fluid (0.06%). Calcium is vital in providing the rigidity to the skeleton. It is an essential element that is only available to the body through dietary sources.
How does breastfeeding relate to bone health?
Breastfeeding causes changes in the mother’s body, including the bone. They produce lesser oestrogen, which is the hormone that protects the bones. Aside from that, human breast milk is the sole dietary source of calcium to the baby and most of the calcium present in milk was derived from the mother’s bone. It means that, during breastfeeding, calcium will be drawn from the mother’s bone to support the baby’s need. The needs will increase as the baby is growing. Therefore, getting enough calcium is very important, especially for the mother’s bone health to prevent osteopenia or osteoporosis.
How much calcium should a breastfeeding mother consume?
So, how much calcium is needed for a breastfeeding mother? According to the Ministry of Health Malaysia, the recommended calcium intake for lactating mothers (20-49 years old) is 1000 mg/day. Although the requirement is the same as the non-lactating women, mothers should still ensure they are taking enough calcium in their daily diet mainly for their bone health.
How to achieve 1000mg calcium/day?
Getting at least 3-4 servings of calcium-rich foods/ beverages daily will help ensure enough calcium in daily diet. Examples of good sources of calcium are dairy products like milk, yogurt, ricotta, as well as sardine canned with bones, green collard, kale and broccoli. Tips to enhance calcium absorption is to get adequate vitamin D! Daily vitamin D can be obtained through regular exposure to the sun. Besides sunlight, vitamin D is also found in fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and swordfish and even fortified milk.
National Coordinating Committee on Food and Nutrition. Ministry of Health (2017). Recommended Nutrients Intake for Malaysia. Retrieved from https://expert.taylors.edu.my/file/rems/publication/107126_3033_1.pdf
NIH (n.d.). Pregnancy, Breastfeeding and Bone Health. Retrieved from https://www.bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/bone-health/pregnancy
National Osteoporosis Foundation (2021). A Guide to Calcium Rich Foods. Retrieved from https://www.nof.org/patients/treatment/calciumvitamin-d/a-guide-to-calcium-rich-foods/