Vegetarian Diets and Breastfeeding

By Kelly Bonyata, IBCLC

A vegetarian or vegan mother does not need to take any special dietary precautions as long as she is maintaining a diet with adequate amounts of vitamin B12, calcium and zinc. This is something that mom needs to do for herself, even if she is not breastfeeding.

If you are avoiding meat but eating any other type of animal protein (eggs, milk, cheese or other dairy products, fish, poultry) you will normally get enough vitamin B12.

If, on the other hand, you are consuming no animal protein at all — no fish, meat, poultry, eggs or dairy products — you will need to make sure you get enough vitamin B12 to prevent your baby (and you) from becoming deficient in this vitamin. Vitamin B12 supplements and vitamin B12 fortified foods are available. Supplementing your baby with vitamin B12 is an option if you are vitamin B12 deficient, but you would still need the vitamin B12 for yourself (and if you’re getting enough, baby won’t need the supplement).

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If you don’t eat dairy products, check to make sure that you’re getting sufficient calcium and zinc (this is for your health – baby will get enough of these minerals through your milk even if your diet is deficient). Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers do not need more calcium than normally required for their age group –the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for calcium for women aged 19-50 is 1000 mg per day. The DRI for zinc for breastfeeding mothers is 12 mg per day.

Additional information

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