Both pregnancy and breastfeeding cause changes in, and place extra demands on, women’s bodies. Some of these may affect their bones. While you’re breastfeeding, it’s normal to lose some bone density. This is because during lactation, your estrogen levels are lower and that affects calcium absorption. However, by two years postpartum, breastfeeding mothers completely regain their bone loss.
In fact, your breastfeeding mother’s body replaces bone loss with fresh, new bone. That replacement growth repairs tiny micro fractures which makes your bones even stronger. A healthy diet is still important for bone and overall well being.
According to the international osteoporosis foundation recommendation, nutrition and bone health are closely related. A healthy diet can help you prevent and manage osteoporosis by assisting in the production and maintenance of bone. Conversely, if you’re not getting the right nutrients you’re putting yourself at greater risk for osteoporosis. Which nutrients should you be getting, and what’s the best way to get them?
Two of the most important nutrients are calcium and vitamin D. Calcium is a major building-block of bone tissue (the skeleton houses 99% of the body’s calcium stores). Vitamin D is key at it assists your body to absorb calcium – the two go hand in hand.
There is increasing recognition that poor vitamin D levels and low dietary calcium are common in modern society. Approximately 70% of children in the USA are insufficient or deficient in Vitamin D. Similar prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency has been reported in adults. Dietary sources of vitamin D include oily fish such as salmon and swordfish, with lesser amounts in tuna and other fish. It is difficult to consume sufficient amounts of vitamin D from dietary sources alone. The average adult American diet only contains 150-300 IU of Vitamin D per day. A daily vitamin D supplement of 10µg is recommended for breastfeeding (and pregnant) women. The current average dietary intake of vitamin D among women aged 19–64 is 2.6μg.
Calcium intake is also low for most age groups in the United States. The principal dietary source of calcium is milk and milk products although lesser sources include salmon, almonds, and leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, and turnip greens. The recommended dietary allowance of calcium is 1,200 mg/day but the majority of women older than forty consume less than 600 mg/day in the United States. The average dietary calcium intake is below the recommended amount for 60-70% of teenage girls and for 70% of post-menopausal women. An appropriate supplementary dose is 400-800 mg/day in order to achieve 1,2000 mg/day as recommended by the National Institutes of Health. Very high levels of calcium supplementation have been associated with increased risks of kidney stones and myocardial infarction. Therefore, calcium supplementation should achieve the recommended dietary allowance without providing excessive amounts.