We all know breast milk is the most nourishing food for a newborn. But to pass on the right nutrients to your baby through your milk, make sure you’re consuming the right foods in the right quantities to stay nourished yourself.
One way to do that would be to explore dietary supplements like collagen powders and pills. But can you take collagen while breastfeeding? Is it safe for you and your little one?
Collagen supplements are generally thought to be safe for nursing mothers and can be beneficial. Keep reading to find out what those benefits are.
4 Benefits of Collagen While Breastfeeding You Need To Know
From reduced bone mineral density (BMD) to recovery from a C-section, there are many reasons why breastfeeding mothers may want to add collagen supplements to their diet. We’ll take a look at four must-know benefits of collagen while breastfeeding.
1. May Stave off Bone Loss
It’s a known fact that the transfer of essential nutrients, namely calcium, from mother to baby predisposes the parent to bone resorption. This is the process in which bones are broken down and absorbed into the body. Just as scary as it sounds, this postpartum phenomenon sets the nursing mother up for bone issues like low BMD and osteoporosis (a disease in which bones are weakened and prone to fractures) later in life.
Here are some hard facts you need to know: Scientific evidence indicates a worrying 4-7% of bone loss in specific parts of the body (lumbar spine and femoral neck) when one is breastfeeding. What’s more, these changes are only partially reversed when you’ve stopped nursing for six months.
More research suggests a link between the duration of breastfeeding, bone loss, and its subsequent recovery. According to one study published in the Journal of Osteoporosis International, less than one month of lactation is associated with a year-long bone mass recovery. New mothers who breastfed for six months showed that their bone mass only returned to normal six months later. Meanwhile, those who breastfed for twelve months did not experience any degree of bone mass recovery. The longer you breastfeed, the lower the odds of having your bone mass return to baseline levels once you’ve stopped nursing.
So, how does collagen supplementation help? Given that collagen peptides are scientifically proven to improve BMD in post-menopausal women suffering from an age-related loss in bone mass, collagen supplements may offer similar benefits to those who breastfeed. Of course, it’s always a good idea to check in with your primary care doctor to see if you should supplement with collagen while breastfeeding to support your bone health.
2. Improve Skin Complexion
Dry skin, stretch marks, and a loss of elasticity are common complaints that begin during pregnancy and carry over into breastfeeding. This is another area where collagen supplements can help.
A 2020 article in the Journal of Plastic and Aesthetic Research highlighted that “Collagen supplementation during and after pregnancy (in particular during breastfeeding) can be a key beneficial support to the immense amount of changes that the body goes through during that period, supporting a hydrated and more elastic skin architecture, making it healthier and stronger, especially post-partum.”
As such, it may be time to speak with your obstetrician about which collagen supplement can meet your beauty needs. (Hint: Zen Principle’s Collagen Collection may have what you’re looking for.)
3. May Relieve Joint Discomfort
Baby weight generally persists for a while after giving birth. Unfortunately, the excess pounds are the culprit behind joint discomfort during pregnancy that lingers postpartum. What’s more, breastfeeding positions typically trigger and intensify the back, shoulder, and neck aches. Lifting and carrying your growing newborn also contributes to pains in other body parts, like the knees. Thankfully, science shows that collagen supplementation may help relieve breastfeeding-related joint discomfort.
One study published in 2021 analyzed the effects of five grams of specific collagen peptide supplementation among physically active young adults aged 18-30 with exercise-related knee pain but no joint disease. The researchers found that the collagen group experienced significantly lower levels of exercise-induced knee pain than the placebo group. Even with degenerative bone and joint disorders, science believes that marrying collagen peptide supplementation with exercise may help, per a 2021 systematic review of 15 randomized controlled trials.
4. Help Boost C-section Recovery
While it isn’t exactly breastfeeding, many new mothers spend much of their postpartum journey healing from a Cesarean birth (C-section). Some ladies may also worry if they can breastfeed right after the surgery.
While your doctor may have told you that you can nurse your baby following a C-section, research has shown that surgical births may affect your success rate with breastfeeding. This is likely due to postoperative complications such as pain from the wound area and a delayed milk supply.
So, does that mean you have to give up your hopes of breastfeeding your little one if you had a C-section? Not necessarily. Aside from exploring additional support like engaging a lactation consultant, collagen supplements may help speed up the recovery process and make your breastfeeding journey a little more enjoyable.
If you think about it, collagen is a vital component of almost all the major organs in the body — think the muscles, skin, and blood vessels. A 2015 study used rat models to prove that marine collagen peptides from chum salmon skin quickened wound healing following a C-section. The study’s researchers noted an increasing skin tensile strength for 1-3 weeks post-surgery. They explained that “a higher tensile strength reflects a faster healing process.” The researchers credited it to collagen supplementation as significant collagen deposition was observed at the healing site 2 and 3 weeks post-surgery. Increased collagen deposition translates to more cross-linkages created between the collagen fibers, boosting the skin’s tensile strength.
On top of that, the researchers also discovered “increased vascularization in both skin and uterine wound tissue.” If you haven’t heard, vascularization refers to the process of blood vessel formation within the skin to enhance the delivery of much-needed oxygen and nutrients to the wound site. This, in turn, helps the wound to heal faster.
Last but not least, marine collagen peptides also encourage the production of CD21, a glycoprotein that upregulates pro-inflammatory responses in the short term to aid with wound healing and downplays chronic inflammation. As such, collagen supplements may indirectly alleviate inflammation associated with wound recovery after a C-section.
How To Choose the Right Collagen Supplements To Take After Giving Birth
Now that you’re aware of the potential benefits of collagen supplementation while breastfeeding, let’s get into what you want to know: How to choose the right collagen supplements for you.
Keep It Clean
Your baby is what you eat. Given how nutrients are passed from your digestive system to your newborn via breast milk, it’s essential to take care in checking the ingredient list of the collagen supplement you plan to take.
As a rule of thumb, choose a supplement that comprises purely collagen peptides. For example, Zen Principle’s Beef Collagen Peptides Powder only has hydrolyzed bovine collagen peptides listed in its ingredient list.
It’s also a good idea to avoid ingredients such as:
- Artificial sweeteners
- Genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
If you want to take marine collagen supplements, make sure the product or brand is tested for heavy metals. These harmful metals usually accumulate in the flesh of marine animals and can be passed on to your baby through breast milk.
Zen Principle’s Marine Collagen Powder is regularly tested for mercury, lead, arsenic, and cadmium. All tests show extremely low levels of heavy metals that are well within the range considered safe for people.
Take Note of the Collagen Type
Collagen usually comes in two types:
- Collagen peptides, or fully hydrolyzed collagen, are short-chain amino acids easily broken down in the digestive system. This makes the absorption process efficient and less likely to create digestive discomfort like bloating and gas.
- Collagen gelatin is partially hydrolyzed collagen. It’s often used as a thickening agent to enhance the texture of the food or beverage you’re consuming.
Depending on your needs, you may choose either collagen peptides or gelatin. Check out our guide to “Collagen or Gelatin Powder” so you know which one to get.
Beware of Interactions
If you’re taking medication or other dietary supplements, check with your primary care doctor on possible interactions with your collagen supplements. This is especially so if the supplement contains other active ingredients, say, vitamin C, besides collagen itself.
Get the Green Light
At the end of the day, you need the green light on your collagen supplement of choice from a licensed healthcare professional (as well as other dietary supplements you may be taking). That’s because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates dietary supplements like collagen powders as food, not drugs. That means they are held to less stringent requirements even though some supplements contain actual drugs or substances with drug-like properties.
For peace of mind, it’s recommended to consult your doctor before adding collagen supplements to your diet while breastfeeding.
How Much Collagen Can You Take While Breastfeeding?
There’s no hard and fast rule on how much collagen you can take while breastfeeding, as the exact dosage depends on your individual needs. That said, you don’t want to go over 15 grams of collagen per day, or you’ll risk the symptoms of too much collagen consumption.
If you aren’t sure how much collagen you should take while breastfeeding, make an appointment with your obstetrician. He or she is in the best position to guide you on your collagen needs. Ask them for expert-approved collagen supplements. If you already have a supplement in mind, bring it along with you to your appointment. That way, your healthcare provider can use the product information on the packaging to recommend the best dosage for you.
Meet Your Collagen Needs While Breastfeeding With Zen Principle
If you’re interested in collagen supplements while breastfeeding, Zen Principle has three kinds which you can choose from:
To get the most out of your Zen Principle collagen supplement, share it with your primary doctor to get their approval and use it per the recommended dosage. Before you know it, you’ll realize this may be one of your best postpartum decisions yet.