Vegetarianism and Breastfeeding

A diet rich in soy and whey protein, found in ...

A vegetarian diet has many benefits, but also poses a challenge for breastfeeding. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If a steaming plate of fatty, barbecued baby back ribs makes you want to toss your cookies, you might be a vegetarian.  Did you know that vegetarians have a few extra breastfeeding challenges compared to meat-eating moms?

Vegetarians are at risk for a vitamin deficiency that can lead to low milk supply. Here’s how it works: vegetarian diets are typically low in vitamin B12. Babies who don’t get enough B12 are often sleepy and lethargic. They often don’t have enough energy to completely empty the breast and whenever milk is left in the breast it signals the body that it is over producing, therefore supply will decrease.

The fix is easy. The vegetarian mom needs to take vitamin B12, which will naturally pass through to the baby when he breastfeeds. Even if you’re still taking your prenatal vitamins (which you should be) you need to supplement with a much higher concentration of vitamin B12. Take 1000 mcg per day.

Another risk of vegetarian diets is insufficient calories for nursing. Your body needs 300-500 more calories per day to make an adequate milk supply. See the “Eat Well, Diet Later” article for more info.

Supplements provide a quick fix but shouldn’t be substituted for good nutrition. Check out “The Vegetarian Mother’s Cookbook” by Cathe Olson. Available on or possibly at your local library.

While the B12 takes effect follow the advice in the 11 ways to increase milk supply to move your milk production in the correct direction. heart-logo

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