Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin that helps the body use iron and fight infections. It’s found in many fruits and vegetables, including citrus fruits, berries, bell peppers and tomatoes, as well as some supplements. In general, vitamin c when breastfeeding is safe for both mom and baby in reasonable doses. Vitamins pass through breast milk and can help boost babies’ immune systems to keep them healthy or help them recover faster if they get sick.
In fact, research shows that a breastfeeding mother’s dietary intake of vitamin C can increase milk supply. However, taking too much vitamin c can cause diarrhea, stomach cramps and nausea, which are not ideal for a nursing mama. It’s also not recommended to take more than the RDA of vitamin c when breastfeeding, which is 120 milligrams per day.
If you’re worried about getting enough vitamin c while breastfeeding, start by eating a variety of whole foods that are high in vitamin c, such as kiwi, spinach and strawberries. You can also add a supplement such as Emergen-C or Vitamin C to your diet, but only in a small dose, as recommended by a health professional.
Taking a vitamin c when breastfeeding may also be beneficial for mothers who are experiencing symptoms of mastitis, an infection that affects the nipple and udder of a nursing mother (see “What Is Mastitis?”). Taking a large amount of vitamin c is thought to help increase antioxidant levels in the milk, which could reduce inflammation and improve the quality of the milk (see “The Effects of Vitamin C on Lactation”). The authors of this article recommend caution in taking higher than recommended doses of supplemental vitamin c, especially IV vitamin c, as it has not been studied in breastfeeding women (12). Medications like metronidazole or antibiotics may deplete vitamin c levels in nursing women (14) (15).