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Staying healthy is critical for both you and your baby, especially during cold and flu season. Supporting your immune system by eating nutritious food is a great place to start.
But sometimes (OK, all the time!), life gets hectic, which means you may not always have time to prepare a healthy meal or grab a nutrient-dense snack.
To fill in the gaps, many folks who are breastfeeding consider taking immune-boosting supplements in addition to their daily postnatal multivitamin.
But is that safe?
Here’s what you need to know about boosting immunity with supplements while breastfeeding.
What’s more, your daily needs for many nutrients are even greater during breastfeeding than they were during pregnancy. Your body uses nutrients such as choline, iodine, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and vitamins A, B12, and D to produce milk (
Many people continue taking their prenatal vitamin while breastfeeding or start taking a postnatal supplement after they give birth.
Most pre- and postnatal supplements cover the majority of your needs for nutrients that are in high demand during breastfeeding, including:
- vitamin A
- vitamin B12
- vitamin B6
- vitamin C
- vitamin D
- vitamin E
Taking a supplement specifically designed to support your needs after delivery and throughout breastfeeding is something your doctor will likely discuss with you during a prenatal visit or your 6-week checkup.
It’s a good idea to continue taking a well-rounded prenatal or start a postnatal supplement after giving birth.
Most pre- and postnatal supplements do not contain enough vitamin D or choline, a nutrient essential for fetal growth and development. They also often lack the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).
Your needs for these nutrients increase during breastfeeding, so getting enough on a daily basis is critical.
The best pre- and postnatal supplements contain roughly 50% or more of your choline needs — you need 550 milligrams (mg) per day during lactation. It’s also important to eat choline-rich foods such as egg yolks and fish (
Vitamin D is another nutrient that’s in high demand during breastfeeding.
Although the current daily recommendation for vitamin D during pregnancy and breastfeeding is 600 IU, studies suggest that a daily intake of 6,400 IU is necessary to maintain optimal vitamin D levels in breastfeeding parents and breastfed infants (
It’s best to get your vitamin D levels checked so that a healthcare professional can recommend a dose that helps you reach and maintain optimal blood levels during breastfeeding.
Healthcare professionals also recommend supplementing with the essential fatty acids DHA and EPA when breastfeeding.
Keep in mind that most pre- and postnatal supplements do not contain DHA or EPA.
In addition to a well-balanced pre- or postnatal supplement, you may need to take a separate supplement containing 250–375 mg of DHA plus EPA.
Diet matters too
Although a high quality pre- or postnatal supplement can help you meet your nutrient needs, it’s also important to maintain a nutritious diet while breastfeeding.
To help you keep your energy levels up and support milk production, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends eating 450–500 extra calories per day while breastfeeding. For most women, this means eating about 2,500 calories per day (12).
Make sure that most of your calorie intake comes from nutrient-dense foods, including protein sources like fish, chicken, legumes, and eggs plus vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds.
Looking for the right postnatal vitamin?
Check out our recommendations for the best multivitamins for breastfeeding moms here. And rest assured that all the vitamins and supplements Healthline recommends are medically vetted.
Your body depends on a steady flow of nutrients to stay healthy during pregnancy.
Although taking extra nutrients cannot “boost” your immune system, making sure that you’re getting optimal amounts of vitamins and minerals, as well as macronutrients like protein and healthy fats, can support immune function.
To support your immune system and meet your nutritional demands, you may want to take certain supplements during the postpartum period, including:
- vitamin D
- omega-3 fatty acids
To determine which supplements are right for you, consider whether you’re already consuming adequate amounts of these nutrients through your diet and pre- or postnatal vitamins. It’s also a good idea to talk with a trusted healthcare professional.
If you’re following a nutritious diet and taking a well-rounded pre- or postnatal supplement during breastfeeding, your needs for most nutrients will be covered.
However, as explained above, you may need to take additional nutrients like vitamin D, choline, and essential fatty acids if they’re missing from your pre- or postnatal supplement or if the supplement you’re taking does not contain enough to meet your needs.
Taking extra nutrients in supplement form may cause you to exceed your daily needs. Exceeding your needs for some nutrients, such as iodine, can lead to adverse and even dangerous side effects for you and your baby (
What’s more, you should avoid certain herbs and other common supplement ingredients during pregnancy and breastfeeding. That’s why it’s important to know exactly what’s in your pre- or postnatal supplement and avoid any supplement that contains potentially unsafe ingredients (
Moreover, Rachel Borton, PhD, director of the Family Nurse Practitioner Online Program and assistant professor of nursing at Bradley University, reminds us that each mom and each baby has a unique health history.
Because of this, you cannot assume that every over-the-counter supplement is safe to consume, since you will be sharing the supplements with your baby through your breast milk.
“There are some supplements that mothers want to avoid (for their own health safety or for milk production effects), and their provider will have the best knowledge as to what is appropriate for both mom and baby,” Borton said.
An important note
When choosing the best supplements to support your immune system while breastfeeding, we considered the following factors:
- Nutritional content: We included products that may support the health of your immune system and help meet the nutritional demands of breastfeeding.
- Ingredients: We looked for supplements that are made from high quality ingredients and free of unnecessary and potentially problematic ingredients.
- Testing: We included products that undergo testing for purity and potency, ideally by a third-party organization.
Why you should trust us
Every brand and product on our list has been reviewed by registered dietitians and vetted to ensure that it aligns with Healthline’s brand integrity standards and approach to well-being. Each product in this article:
- adheres to allowable health claims and labeling requirements, per Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations
- is manufactured in facilities that adhere to current good manufacturing practices (CGMPs) established by the FDA
- is produced by a medically credible company that follows ethical, legal, and industry best standards
- is made by a company that provides objective measures of trust, such as having its supplements validated by third-party labs
A note on price
General price ranges are indicated below with dollar signs ($–$$$$). One dollar sign means the product is rather affordable, whereas four dollar signs indicate a higher cost.
Generally, prices range from $0.03 to $2.99 per serving, or $14.85 to $49.96 per container, though this may vary depending on where you shop.
- $ = under $0.10 per serving
- $$ = $0.10–$0.99 per serving
- $$$ = $1.00–$1.99 per serving
- $$$$ = over $1.99 per serving
Best vitamin D
- Price: $
- Type: liquid
- Dose: 1 drop provides 1,000 IU of vitamin D
Pure Encapsulations Vitamin D3 Liquid is a good choice for those looking for an extra dose of vitamin D. Each drop contains 1,000 IU of the nutrient, so you can tailor your dose based on your needs and how much vitamin D is already in your pre- or postnatal supplement.
Vitamin D is essential to the health and proper functioning of your immune system.
For example, immune cells require vitamin D to protect your body from pathogens, and this nutrient is also involved in regulating inflammation (
According to health experts, vitamin D needs during breastfeeding far exceed the current recommendation of 600 IU per day (
Most pre- and postnatal supplements contain only 400–600 IU of vitamin D. Studies suggest that a much higher dose of 6,400 IU per day is needed to maintain optimal vitamin D levels during breastfeeding, so you may need to take a vitamin D supplement in addition to your pre- or postnatal supplement.
Remember, it’s always a good idea to have your vitamin D levels checked to make sure you’re taking the right amount.
- third-party tested
- appropriate for people who cannot tolerate pills
- certified gluten-free
- smaller dose that may not be appropriate for people with vitamin D deficiency
- Price: $$
- Type: capsules
- Dose: 2 capsules provide 141 mg of probiotics
Maintaining a healthy digestive system is essential for immune function.
Some studies suggest that probiotic supplements may enhance immune function in some people, although no studies currently show that probiotic supplements enhance immune function in breastfeeding women specifically (
Nevertheless, taking a high quality probiotic supplement could support overall digestive health and may promote a healthy immune response.
Bio-Kult is a high quality probiotic that contains 14 probiotic strains, including Lactobacillus acidophilus PXN 35 and Bifidobacterium longum PXN 30.
Bio-Kult guarantees that the total bacteria count of its products is viable until the end of the product’s shelf life. The National Institutes of Health recommends looking for this guarantee when shopping for probiotics.
- guarantees that the CFU count is viable until the end of the product’s stated shelf life
- probiotics may not be appropriate or necessary for everyone
- unclear whether Bio-Kult products are third-party tested
- Price: $$$
- Type: softgels
- Dose: 2 softgels provide 586 mg of EPA and 456 mg of DHA plus 1,000 IU of vitamin D3
Nordic Naturals Postnatal Omega-3 is specifically designed for postpartum and breastfeeding people. A dose of 2 softgels provides 586 mg of EPA and 456 mg of DHA plus 1,000 IU of vitamin D3, another immune-supporting nutrient.
EPA and DHA are essential for your and your baby’s health and have important immune-regulating functions. They help suppress inflammation and enhance the function of immune cells (
Most pre- and postnatal supplements do not contain DHA or EPA, so you may need to take a separate omega-3 product to make sure you’re getting enough of these important fats.
All Nordic Naturals products are third-party tested for quality and purity. Customers can also request a certificate of analysis (COA) for all Nordic Naturals supplements on the company’s website.
- third-party tested
- COA available upon request
- certified sustainable by Friend of the Sea
- relatively expensive
Best protein powder
- Price: $$$$
- Type: powder
- Dose: 1 scoop, or 46 grams (g), provides 140 calories and 14 g of protein
If you’re finding it difficult to consume enough protein and calories while breastfeeding, you might consider using a protein powder like this one from Seeking Health.
Seeking Health Optimal Prenatal Powder is specifically designed for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding. In addition to 14 g of protein, the powder provides several nutrients that are important for immune and overall health, including vitamin D, zinc, choline, and vitamin C.
The powder is available in chocolate and vanilla flavors. It’s also vegetarian-friendly and free of major allergens, GMOs, and artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives.
Seeking Health supplements are produced in a USA-based, NSF-certified facility. This supplement is also third-party tested for potency and purity.
- third-party tested
- free of artificial flavors and additives
- free of major allergens
- contains several essential vitamins and minerals, including choline
- not vegan-friendly as the vitamin D3 is derived from sheep’s wool
Dietary supplements like Airborne and Emergen-C are not recommended during breastfeeding because not enough medical studies have been performed to determine their effectiveness and safety.
These supplements provide more than 1,000% of the Daily Value for vitamin C, which is unnecessary since your body can use only a certain amount of vitamin C at a time.
Once your blood is saturated with vitamin C, any extra will simply leave your body via your urine. Therefore, it’s unnecessary to take megadoses that provide more than 200 mg at a time (
These supplements also contain other nutrients, such as vitamins E and A, so if you take them alongside a multinutrient pre- or postnatal supplement, you’ll likely exceed the daily recommendations for several vitamins and minerals.
For these reasons, it’s best not to take these supplements while you’re breastfeeding.
Can I take vitamin C while breastfeeding?
Yes, vitamin C is safe to take during breastfeeding. However, most pre- and postnatal supplements will cover 100% of your needs, so there’s usually no need to take an additional supplement.
What supplements should I avoid while breastfeeding?
You should avoid certain substances while you’re breastfeeding. For example, there’s not enough evidence to say that herbs such as ginseng and ashwagandha are safe to take during breastfeeding (
It’s best to ask a trusted healthcare professional for advice before starting any new product, especially a supplement that contains herbs.
Do breastfeeding vitamins increase milk supply?
While some people swear by products like fennel and mother’s milk tea for increasing milk supply, there’s very little evidence that these products are effective (
Instead, it’s best to support your milk supply by staying hydrated, managing stress, getting enough sleep, making sure you’re eating enough calories, and choosing nutritionally balanced meals and snacks (
Making sure that you’re getting optimal nutrition while breastfeeding can have health benefits for both you and your baby.
Several high quality pre- and postnatal supplements are available and safe to take during breastfeeding to support your immune system and overall health.
If you want to take additional supplements, make sure that they’re safe and that you’re not exceeding the daily recommended doses of the nutrients. Make sure to talk with a healthcare professional before taking any supplements while breastfeeding.