Your bones and breastfeeding

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Breaking my foot as my daughter closed in on her 12th month of life started me wondering about how breastfeeding might affect my bones.  It made sense to me that as my baby gained nutrients from me, I might be at a loss.  Though I eat a varied diet and take supplements, it seems natural that that might not be enough.  My daughter is in the 70th percentile for height, and where there’s length, there’s growing bones that need calcium to nourish themselves.

An article on the National Institute of Health’s website proved this logic.  The article mentions that there have been studies that show that women loose 3-5 percent of their bone mass while breastfeeding.  Estrogen, a hormone that protects the bones, is also produced less during breastfeeding.  The good news is that it is rapidly recovered when the baby is weaned.

Breastfeeding is often the best option to give babies the best start to life.  Knowing that prolonged breastfeeding can affect a woman’s bones shouldn’t deter you from breastfeeding your baby.  Instead, preventive measures should be taken.

Along with a calcium intake of 1,000 mg daily, exercise is one of the best ways to maintain strong and healthy bones.  The more your chance your bones get to carry you around, the more they fortify themselves to do so.  If postpartum fatigue prevents you from being as active as you’d like to be, make sure to seek help from a healthcare provider.  Recovering the energy you need to take care of yourself and your baby is a high priority!

If you’re not taking a supplement, calcium can be found in a number of foods, from the usual suspects such as dairy products, to dark leafy greens such as kale and broccoli, as well as tofu and almonds.  Having a varied diet that includes components of all these different food groups is the best way to make sure you’re getting the nutrients you need to support your body as well as your baby’s.

The WHO recommends, as well as the natural health community here in the US, two years as the optimal amount of time to breastfeed your baby.  Keep in mind that these are just guidelines, and contain flexibility.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends only one year of breastfeeding.  While this is dramatically shorter than two years, if you’re making sure to feed your baby a varied diet full of healthy fats, proteins, carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables, your baby will do fine!  If you’re worried about your bone density, or if you break a bone like I did, don’t be hard on yourself and fret about prolonging your nursing to two years.  A healthy mama is what your baby needs above all.