As a new mom, your health may be the last thing on your mind. Preparing for your little one’s arrival and tending to their needs after you welcome them to the world is a full-time job. All too often, your needs take the back seat. However, it is important to make your health a priority. This blog focuses on one often forgotten aspect during pregnancy and breastfeeding – bone health.
Why is bone health important during pregnancy and breastfeeding?
Pregnancy and breastfeeding place extra demands on your body to help your baby grow and thrive. Just like you prioritize your little one’s needs once they’re born, your body prioritizes your baby’s growth and development while they’re still in the womb – even if that means depleting your nutrient stores.
This is the case with calcium and bone health. Pregnant and breastfeeding women need at least 1,000 mg of calcium each day to maintain strong bones. If you don’t get enough calcium through your diet or supplements, your body steals calcium from your bones to give to your baby.
Here are five things to know about bone health, pregnancy, and breastfeeding.
1. There are both dairy and non-dairy sources of calcium.
Milk, yogurt, and cheese are great sources of calcium. But if dairy doesn’t make a regular appearance in your diet, that’s okay – you have lots of other options to help meet your calcium needs. Plant-based foods high in calcium include beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, leafy greens, milk alternatives (like almond or soy milk), orange juice, and cereal are often fortified with calcium. Interested in a more detailed list of plant-based calcium foods? Check out this blog: “Bone Health: No Milk? No Problem!”
2. It may be helpful to talk to your doctor about your vitamin D status.
Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, so it plays a pretty big role in bone health, too. You can get vitamin D in a few different ways:
Sunshine. Your body can make vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. Keep in mind that geographical location, time of day, age, skin pigmentation, and sunscreen use can all affect your ability to make vitamin D from the sun, so many people struggle to make enough vitamin D from sunlight alone.
Food. It’s always best to try to get your nutrients from food. But unfortunately, few foods naturally contain vitamin D. Vitamin D-rich foods include fatty fish like salmon or tuna, liver, and egg yolks. Milk and cereal are usually fortified with vitamin D.
Vitamin D supplements. If you’re concerned about whether you’re getting enough Vitamin D, talk with your healthcare provider about if you could benefit from a high-quality vitamin D supplement. They may check your vitamin D level to help determine an appropriate dose for you. Research suggests that vitamin D doses between 50-100 mcg (2,000-4,000 IU) per day are both safe and effective in achieving a healthy vitamin D level.
3. Your body helps protect your bone health during pregnancy.
While your body does tend to prioritize your baby’s growth and development, it still has protective measures in place to help maintain your bone health. Pregnant women absorb calcium from food and supplements more efficiently than women who are not pregnant. Plus, the hormone estrogen (which is increased in pregnancy) protects bone health.
4. Additional pregnancies can help protect your long-term bone health.
Even though pregnancy and breastfeeding can take a toll on bone health, research has shown that having more children doesn’t have a negative impact on bone health later in life. Some studies have shown that multiple pregnancies can even have a protective effect on bone health.
5. Staying active is important, too!
Eating well and staying active during pregnancy go hand in hand for you and your baby’s overall health. Regular physical activity helps support bone health and a healthy pregnancy. Exercise can also help ease pregnancy discomforts, support healthy energy levels, and promote healthy sleep patterns. Always talk to your healthcare provider before starting new exercise activities, especially when pregnant.
You don’t have to choose between your bone health and your baby’s. Focus on calcium, vitamin D, and regular physical activity to maintain strong bones throughout pregnancy, breastfeeding, and beyond.