Vitamin B12 and Breastfeeding

Certain people have an increased need for vitamin B12. Breastfeeding women have a higher need for this vitamin because much of their stores of the vitamin are used by the fetus during pregnancy. A severe deficiency in a breastfeeding mother can lead to a severe deficiency in her child. Before increasing their intake of vitamin B12, breastfeeding women should consult their healthcare providers.

Can I Take Vitamin B12 While Breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding women have a higher need for vitamin B12, compared to most other adults (including pregnant women). While mild vitamin B12 deficiencies are common, since the developing fetus used up much of the mother's stores of the vitamin during pregnancy, and are probably not a cause for much concern, a severe deficiency in a breastfeeding woman can lead to a severe deficiency in her child. Some women (such as strict vegetarians) have a high risk for vitamin B12 deficiencies than others.

Vitamin B12 and Breastfeeding Recommendations

The Recommended Dietary Intake (RDA) of vitamin B12 for breastfeeding women is 2.8 mcg per day, compared to 2.6 mcg per day for pregnant women and 2.4 mcg per day for most other adults. While the RDA is good for preventing deficiencies in most women, much higher doses are required to treat a deficiency.
While many women have no difficulty getting plenty of vitamin B12 through a healthy and well-balanced diet, it is probably a good idea for most women to take supplemental vitamin B12 through a prenatal vitamin. Such supplementation is safe, and the consequences of a deficiency can be quite severe.
Vitamin B12 deficiency in an infant can cause:
  • Anemia
  • Irritability
  • Failure to thrive
  • Poor appetite
  • Apathy
  • Developmental delays.
These problems usually respond rapidly to supplementation, which is usually given to both the mother and the baby.
You should talk with your healthcare provider about vitamin B12 and breastfeeding. Each woman's situation is different, and you and your healthcare provider understand your situation best. After considering what you want and expect, as well as your current health situation, the two of you can make a shared decision about vitamin B12 and breastfeeding that is right for you.
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD
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