Staying healthy is critical for both you and your baby, especially during cold and flu season. Boosting immunity by eating nutritious food is a great place to start.

But sometimes (OK, all the time!), life gets hectic, and eating is something you do between nursing, work, and caring for other kids.

To fill the gaps, a lot of breastfeeding folks 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 pregnant.

What vitamins and nutrients do you need when breastfeeding?

Taking a multivitamin while breastfeeding is something your doctor will likely discuss with you during a prenatal visit or your 6-week checkup.

Since many people continue taking their prenatal vitamin while breastfeeding, most of the key nutrients needed during the postpartum period are already covered.

That said, there are some essential nutrients breastfeeding moms should make sure they are getting daily. According to Sherry Ross, MD, an OB-GYN in Santa Monica, California, if you’re breastfeeding, you should focus on the following essential nutrients:

  • calcium
  • folic acid
  • iodine
  • iron
  • vitamin A
  • vitamin B6
  • vitamin B12
  • vitamin C
  • vitamin D
  • DHA — docosahexaenoic acid, a type of omega-3 fat

To help boost immunity, check the label of your multivitamin for vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin B complex, probiotics, and zinc.

Some immune-boosting supplements also contain echinacea and elderberry, but according to the National Library of Medicine’s Drug and Lactation Database, no data exists on the safety and efficacy of elderberryTrusted Source or echinaceaTrusted Source in nursing mothers or infants.

In addition to a multivitamin or additional supplements, making healthy food choices can also boost your nutrient intake. Mary Gollan, RD, a certified lactation consultant on the team at Preg Appetit!, recommends that breastfeeding moms follow these dietary guidelines when preparing a meal:

  • 1/2 plate fruits and veggies
  • 1/2 cup whole grains
  • 3 ounces lean protein
  • dairy at every meal

To help with energy and keep you producing milk, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommend breastfeeding moms eat about 450 to 500 extra calories a day. Generally speaking, for most women this equates to about 2,500 calories per day.

Is it safe to use additional immunity-boosting supplements while taking a multivitamin? 

Whether or not you should take supplements is a conversation you need to have with your doctor or a registered dietitian.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Trusted Sourcesays if you follow a restrictive diet, you may not get adequate nutrients through food, which increases the risk of nutritional deficiencies.

With that in mind, Ross says that supplementing with certain immune-boosting supplements, in addition to a multivitamin, is safe as long as you take a well-established brand that delivers safe dosages.

The key is not to exceed the recommended daily amount and to only take supplements that are proven safe to consume while breastfeeding.

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 baby has a unique individual health history.

Because of this, you cannot assume that every over-the-counter supplement is safe to consume, since breastfeeding moms will also be sharing the supplements through their breast milk with the infant.

“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 says.

Vitamin C

  • Safety: Yes, vitamin C is safe to take while breastfeeding.
  • Amount: 120 milligrams (mg) is the daily recommended amount for people who are breastfeeding.
  • How it helps boost immunity: You need vitamin C for the growth and repair of all tissues. According to clinical researchTrusted Source, vitamin C may decrease how long you experience cold symptoms.
  • Remember this: Most vitamin C supplements will contain more than the recommended amount for breastfeeding people. Always check with your doctor before taking a vitamin C supplement.

Vitamin D

  • Safety: Yes, vitamin D is safe to take while breastfeeding.
  • Amount: 600 IU (international units) is the daily recommended amount for people who are breastfeeding. That said, “Getting your vitamin D level checked is important in knowing how much supplementation is necessary,” according to Ross. Your doctor may recommend a different amount of supplementation daily, based on your blood test results.
  • How it helps boost immunity: Vitamin D helps your immune system function properly. And some researchTrusted Source says it may help lower the risk of acute respiratory infections, especially in people who are deficient.

Vitamin B complex

  • Safety: Yes, vitamin B complex is safe to take while breastfeeding.
  • Amount: The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) varies by B vitamin. Here is the RDA for consumption daily during lactation, according to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health:
    • B1 (thiamine): 1.4 mg
    • B2 (riboflavin): 1.6 mg
    • B3 (niacin): 17 mg NE (niacin equivalents)
    • B5 (pantothenic acid): 7 mg
    • B6 (pyridoxine): 2.0 mg
    • B7 (biotin): 35 micrograms (mcg)
    • B9 (folic acid): 600 mcg DFE (dietary folate equivalents)
    • B12 (cobalamin): 2.8 mcg
  • How it helps boost immunity: The B vitamins are the building blocks of a healthy body, so they help you maintain overall good health. They work together to help keep energy levels up and boost the body’s defense system against germs.
  • Most vitamin B complex supplements will contain more than the RDA for lactation. Always check with your doctor before taking a vitamin B supplement.

The bottom line

Taking immune-boosting supplements while breastfeeding can provide health benefits to both mom and baby. At a minimum, you should take a postnatal multivitamin or a product that includes the necessary nutrients for breastfeeding.

If you want to take additional supplements, check for safety, and make sure you are not exceeding the daily recommended dose. But before you take any supplements while breastfeeding, make sure to talk with your doctor.

Source: Healthline