Collagen is becoming an increasingly popular supplement for pregnant and postpartum moms. You might be wondering what is the hype all about and should you take collagen while breastfeeding?
Here we dive into all you need to know about collagen while breastfeeding, food sources of it to add to your diet, and the best collagen supplements for breastfeeding moms.
Disclaimer: Before adding any supplement to your diet, it is important to discuss with your healthcare provider about your individual needs. Discuss with your healthcare provider before adding a collagen supplement to your diet.
*Please note, this blog post includes affiliate links for your shopping convenience. The links help support the blog as we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
What is Collagen?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body. It represents approximately 30% of whole body protein content! It is an essential component of healthy skin, bones, and joints. In short, its job is to hold things together.
Collagen can be found in many animal food sources and in supplement form too (we’ll dive into this a little deeper later on).
Why Collagen While Breastfeeding?
Protein is necessary while breastfeeding to maintain muscle mass while also providing adequate nutrition to your baby through breastmilk.
The current Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) of protein for lactating women between 0 – 6 months is 1.05 g of protein per kg of body weight. However, a recent preliminary study suggests protein requirements may be as high as 1.7 – 1.9 g of protein per kg of body weight while breastfeeding.
Eating collagen through foods, or adding a collagen supplement* to your diet can help you meet the increased protein requirements while breastfeeding.
*As always, discuss with your health care provider before adding any supplement to your regimen.
Benefits of Collagen for Breastfeeding Moms
In addition to helping you meet the increased protein demands of breastfeeding, collagen is well known for many other health benefits too!
Skin Regeneration and Health
Collagen is well known for its many benefits in skin health. A recent review highlights collagen’s ability to improve skin elasticity and hydration.
The increased demands of hydration and protein while breastfeeding can lead to dry and irritated skin. Increasing your collagen intake while breastfeeding may support healthy, glowing skin!
Pelvic Floor Tissue Repair and Healing
Collagen is primarily found in connective tissues and plays an important role in structural support, tissue repair and wound healing.
One small study found that women who had pelvic organ prolapse had significantly less collagen compared to controls. While more research is needed, consuming adequate collagen may help support pelvic floor tissue repair and healing.
Hair Restoration after Postpartum Hair Loss
Postpartum hair loss is completely normal and related to fluctuations in hormones and stress. However, it can come as a not so pleasant surprise to many moms. It peaks around four to five months postpartum. And, moms suffering from postpartum hair loss can lose up to 300 – 400 hairs in a day.
Hair is primarily made up of the protein keratin. Proline is an amino acid found in collagen and is a building block for keratin. Therefore, consuming collagen will provide your body with one of the building blocks necessary to build new hair proteins.
Breastfeeding women are at an increased risk for bone loss due to the increased demands of calcium and vitamin D, as well as the hormonal changes at play.
A recent study of 102 postmenopausal women showed a significant increase in bone mineral density among the group receiving 5 grams of collagen peptides, compared to those receiving a placebo. Although the exact mechanism isn’t clear, increasing your collagen intake while breastfeeding may help support strong bones.
Risk of Collagen During Breastfeeding
Now you might be wondering if there are any risks of taking collagen while breastfeeding. At the moment, there are no known side effects of taking collagen while breastfeeding.
However, as with any supplement, you want to be mindful not to over consume, as too much of anything can be a bad thing.
It should be noted that collagen is not considered a complete protein. Collagen peptides lacks tryptophan (one of the nine essential amino acids). Therefore you should not rely on collagen as your sole source of protein.
Best Collagen Supplements for Breastfeeding Moms
When looking for collagen while breastfeeding, it’s important that the supplement meets strict quality standards to ensure its safety and effectiveness as a dietary supplement. You also want to keep an eye out for those with added herbs too.
The below recommended collagen supplements adhere to current good manufacturing practices (CGMPs) mandated by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), and are void of any added herbs.
Needed Collagen Protein
Ethically sourced from the hides of grass-fed, pasture-raised, hormone-free bovines. Needed not only manufactures its collagen and other supplements in a CGMP facility, but is also third-party tested for purity and quality too.
With 15 grams of protein per serving, add a scoop to your morning coffee or tea, a smoothie or oatmeal to help meet your increased protein needs while breastfeeding. It is dairy-free and soy-free too – a great brand for moms breastfeeding babies with food allergies!
Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides
One of the first collagen supplements on the market, Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides is a solid choice for anyone looking to boost their protein intake. Both NSF Certified and approved by ConsumerLab, it too is third party tested.
Vital Collagen Peptides provides 18 grams of protein per serving. The added vitamin C and hyaluronic acid can help boost collagen production and absorption too. For mamas looking for a pescatarian friendly alternative, they also have marine collagen available as well.
Looking for more collagen supplement options? Here are 7 of the best collagen supplements as recommended by several registered dietitians.
Foods Rich In Collagen for Postpartum and Breastfeeding Moms
Although taking collagen supplements while breastfeeding can help meet your increased protein needs, it is always important to obtain nutrients through foods first.
Given that collagen is primarily found in connective tissues, animal foods are the primary source of collagen. Here are a few foods rich in collagen:
- Bone broth
- Pulled Pork
- Slow cooked meats (roasts and stews)
- Meat consumed off of the bone (chicken wings)
- Poultry with skin on it
- Pork Rinds
Looking for a way to incorporate more collagen rich foods into your diet? Check out The Best Cozy Autumn Wild Rice Soup for pregnancy and postpartum – made with bone broth and bits of rotisserie chicken to help you meet your protein needs while breastfeeding!
Collagen for Vegan or Vegetarian Breastfeeding Moms
What if you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet while breastfeeding and do not eat the animal foods listed above or take an animal-based collagen supplement?
The good news is that as science advances, researchers are finding a way to make vegan collagen supplements from genetically modified yeast and bacteria. The bad news is that it isn’t as easily accessible. Most companies are selling vegan supplements that boost collagen production for now.
To end with some more good news, consuming collagen directly from supplements or animal food sources is not necessary to support production of collagen in your own body. Eating foods rich in nutrients necessary for collagen production is key and can be done while following a vegan or vegetarian diet.
Plant Based Support for Collagen Production
If you are having a hard time coming across a vegan collagen boosting supplement, there are a few plant based foods you can include in your diet to help boost your body’s ability to naturally produce collagen.
Spirulina algae is one of the best plant based sources of glycine, proline, and lysine (three amino acids that help make up collagen). However, the quantity required to meet the increased glycine demands during pregnancy and postpartum will be difficult to meet from spirulina algae alone.
A few other nutrients that help support collagen production in the body include vitamin C and zinc.
Vitamin C is a necessary cofactor for collagen production. It also acts as an antioxidant to decrease oxidative stress that otherwise may reduce collagen formation.
Plant based source of Vitamin C:
An additional cofactor to collagen formation, zinc is found in plant based food sources too.
Plant based sources of zinc:
- Whole grains
The Bottom Line
Incorporating collagen while breastfeeding, through diet or supplement form, can help you meet your increased protein needs, heal pelvic floor tissues, support joints and skin elasticity, and with postpartum hair regrowth.
When looking for collagen supplements while breastfeeding, avoid those with added herbs, and look for those that are third party tested for quality and safety through ConsumerLab, NSF International, or USP.
Include foods rich in collagen into your regular meal routine and, incorporate foods rich in vitamin c and zinc to help boost your collagen production as well.