If you’re a nursing mother, you might be wondering if there are any supplements you can take to help with your breastfeeding journey. After all, we are always cautioned to be careful (rightfully so!) of taking medications or supplements while breastfeeding. Fortunately, magnesium is one of the best supplements for nursing moms, and one that has very few contraindications.
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Magnesium has many benefits for breastfeeding/chestfeeding parents, and it can help to ease some of the challenges that come with breastfeeding. Here’s what you need to know about taking magnesium while breastfeeding.
Magnesium benefits for breastfeeding moms
Magnesium is an important mineral in the body that regulates nerve function, energy production, and blood sugar control. That can mean better sleep, fewer migraines, and more.
Magnesium is especially helpful for women of child-bearing age. It can greatly improve mood, lowering anxiety and depression (something I’ve experienced for myself). It’s especially helpful for combatting mood swings related to PMS or PMDD.
RELATED: How PMS and your period can affect milk supply
For breastfeeding moms, magnesium helps relieve restless leg syndrome and can improve mood. While getting magnesium from foods like spinach and nuts is important, adding a magnesium supplement can help ensure you’re getting enough of this essential nutrient every day – potentially improving your overall health.
Signs of magnesium deficiency while breastfeeding
Magnesium deficiency can cause a broad array of vague, troubling symptoms. And because many of these symptoms are just blamed on the stress of being a new mom, they may go unnoticed.
Depression and anxiety
One of the biggest issues with magnesium deficiency while breastfeeding is increased depression and/or anxiety. With that said, many studies (including this meta-analysis) show that magnesium supplementation relieve depression and anxiety. That’s because magnesium decreases the production of stress hormones like cortisol and helps regulate more “feel good” hormones such as serotonin and dopamine.
And remember, anxiety may not just show up as feeling nervous. Often, it looks more like irritability or anger. That’s because anxiety makes you want to control everything around you, leading you to lash out when something isn’t right.
RELATED: Angry mom syndrome
We already know that it’s difficult to get sufficient sleep as a mom of littles, but when you don’t have enough magnesium, it may be worse. You may have a harder time falling asleep or falling back asleep if you wake up in the middle of the night.
RELATED: How to survive sleep regressions
RELATED: Surviving night time cluster feeding
Magnesium deficiency is also correlated to restless leg syndrome (RLS), a frustrating creepy-crawly sensation that makes it feel like you need to move your legs all the time. And when does RLS most often strike? When you’re trying to get to sleep.
Worse PMS symptoms
When you’re low on magnesium, you’re more likely to have a worse time with PMS (assuming your cycle has come back already). Mood swings, cramps, and other related symptoms are all at least somewhat alleviated by taking a magnesium supplement during the second half of your cycle.
Headaches and migraines
There’s tons of research out there that shows magnesium deficiency is associated with increased numbers of migraines and tension headaches. But on the plus side, magnesium supplementation helps relieve these headaches.
Nursing aversion and agitation
Particularly if you’re nursing a toddler or tandem nursing a toddler or newborn, you may feel irritation or disgust at your child breastfeeding. This doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom, it just means you’re suffering from a condition called nursing aversion.
RELATED: Nursing aversion (or when breastfeeding isn’t magical)
Nursing aversion tends to be worse in the days leading up to your period. Fortunately, this is another symptom that’s relieved by taking a magnesium supplement.
Can I take magnesium while breastfeeding?
Yes! Magnesium also doesn’t cross over into milk very well, so your baby doesn’t get too much magnesium from your supplement (plus, your baby’s digestive system doesn’t absorb it well anyways). You won’t cause your baby to overdose on magnesium or have dangerous symptoms by taking a magnesium supplement.
Does magnesium affect breast milk production?
While some people may claim that magnesium boosts breastmilk production, it’s more complicated than that.
Magnesium doesn’t directly affect milk production, but it does impart a feeling of calm and relaxation. So if your supply is suffering due to high stress (which can happen), a magnesium supplement can help. But that’s just because magnesium can help you relax, which in turn makes it easier for your body to have “let downs” of milk.
Which magnesium is best for breastfeeding?
There are many forms of magnesium that you can take as a supplement. But they’re not all created equal! Each form has a different use.
Oral magnesium supplementation
The cheapest version of magnesium (and the one found in most multivitamins) is magnesium oxide. Unfortunately, this form is poorly absorbed by the body, so it won’t help you as much. I generally don’t use it.
Instead, you should go for magnesium citrate or magnesium glycinate. And don’t worry, I’ll make sure you know the difference between magnesium citrate vs. glycinate.
Magnesium citrate can have a laxative effect (it’s the same drug as in the saline laxative you can buy over the counter at the pharmacy), so you may want to be careful with it. However, I have taken it by pill and been okay, so that’s an option.
My favorite form of magnesium for oral supplementation is chelated magnesium. Chelated magnesium, or magnesium glycinate, is well absorbed by the body and it doesn’t have a laxative effect. Plus, the glycine in this supplement form is known to help you feel calmer and sleep better, so it boosts the effects you’re looking for with magnesium.
I like this brand of chelated magnesium.
Dermal magnesium supplementation
There is some evidence that, if you prefer, you can boost your magnesium levels through the skin (rather than an oral supplement). This is often accomplished through using magnesium “oil” (not truly an oil, just a highly concentrated salt solution) or lotion.
If you choose to use magnesium oil, make sure you get one that is free of lead, cadmium, and other dangerous heavy metals.
Many people suggest spraying magnesium oil on the bottom of your feet and putting on socks before you go to bed for the night.
You may feel sticky or a little slimy after the solution dries (much like how you feel when you get out of the ocean and let the salt water dry on you). If it bothers you, just rinse it off after 20 minutes.
Want to try a magnesium oil? Check out my pick here.
How much magnesium should I take while breastfeeding?
While you likely want to talk to your healthcare provider before starting any new supplementation, 500-1000 mg of a calcium/magnesium combo has been recommended for breastfeeding mothers (particularly those whose cycles have started back).
If you choose to just take magnesium without the calcium, you’re fine to take the dosage recommended on the back of the bottle. Usually, that’s around 400mg per day.
Best foods for breastfeeding moms to get more magnesium
Nursing mothers need to pay special attention to their dietary needs and ensure they are consuming enough magnesium. Fortunately, there are plenty of delicious food sources full of this important nutrient, including:
- Beans and other legumes (especially black beans)
- Nuts such as almonds or cashews
- Peanut butter
- Seeds like pumpkin
- Fatty fish like salmon or mackerel
- Dark leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale
- Dark chocolate
Adding more magnesium to your daily diet can be an effective and easy way to help support a healthy lifestyle. Consider finding ways to include leafy greens, nuts and seeds, fish, beans, avocados, yogurt, and dark chocolate into meals and snacks. Magnesium rich foods are very versatile – for instance you can use avocado in a salad, taco, or just enjoy it on some toast with some salt. And if you’re looking for something decadent and healthful for your post-birth nutrition plan, why not try making a chocolate avocado mousse?
Conclusions on magnesium for breastfeeding moms
Magnesium is a supplement that can be incredibly helpful for breastfeeding mothers. It’s been known to play a key role in helping to reduce stress and anxiety, while at the same time providing additional energy – something moms may need during those late night feeds.
Magnesium can also help with overall health, as it helps improve cardiac health, circulation and improved immune system functioning. Many studies have also indicated that regular magnesium intake can actually improve cognitive functionality and help to regulate hormones within the body, creating a feeling of more balance in your life. With all these benefits combined with its ease of accessibility, it’s no wonder why this is one of the best supplements for moms who are breastfeeding – plus, it’s relatively inexpensive too.
If you are a breastfeeding mother who is struggling with low energy levels, anxiety, or poor sleep, consider taking a magnesium supplement. Magnesium can help increase your energy levels, reduce anxiety, and improve sleep quality. And if you need more support on your nursing journey, grab my Breastfeeding 101 Action Pack. This action pack includes everything you need to get started on your breastfeeding journey with confidence.