Breastfeeding women need adequate nutrient intake not only for themselves but also for their babies. Lack of micronutrients, minerals, and other necessary substances may lead to breastfeeding problems. The problems would have been worse when the baby is exclusively breastfed. Some researchers from Penn State suggest that zinc level in the breast milk can be used as an indicator of breast function in lactating women.
Breastfeeding Problems and Zinc Levels
Researches have found that low zinc level may lead to zinc deficiency in infants that receive exclusive breastfeeding. Zinc is an essential mineral for mammary gland. Impaired or decreasing zinc level may lead to impaired growth of mammary gland. Previous studies found that this impairment might be associated with a kind of mutation in the genes, which are responsible for production of this protein. The problem is that this genetic variation is more common in women.
Therefore, women who have difficulty in breastfeeding because of not optimum production of breast milk may have this kind of genetic mutation. Therefore, some women with breastfeeding problems are recommended to increase zinc level through supplementation. It is important to note that zinc level is important not only after the childbirth, but also during the gestation. Zinc is essential for fetal growth and development during the pregnancy as well as later in the baby’s life.
In healthy women, zinc plays an important role in exclusively breastfed infants during the first year of their life. Young infants depend more upon the bioavailable zinc in human breast feeding than older children do. Older children can get zinc from non-human sources, such as fruits, vegetables, and cereals.
Overcoming Breastfeeding Problems through Zinc Supplementation
Supplementation is claimed to be the best solution now available for mothers with breastfeeding problems. It is because further studies are still necessary to confirm that relationship between breastfeeding problems and zinc levels. Actually, before initiating supplementation program, pregnant and lactating women have to plan a balanced diet program, since the diet influences the intake of essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, including zinc.
The following are some expected benefits of zinc supplementation in lactating women who have breastfeeding problems. Most of these reactions may be seen 24 to 48 hours after zinc supplementation:
- Improvement of the cracked nipples
- Improvement of infant oral thrush
- Mood improvement
- Decrease of irritability
- Improved appetite
- Improved sleeping patterns
Taking zinc supplement is only suggested under a doctor’s supervision, since every woman may need different dosages, depending upon the level of breastfeeding problems. The supplement products may include vitamin B6, B12, and iodine supplements. Zinc supplementation may lead to varied types of reactions. Some hosts respond positively and rapidly, while some others need more time to see the results.
In addition, every woman needs zinc supplementation for different durations. It must be noted that it is not recommended to take the supplement for prolonged period. Make sure to consult your dietitian before deciding the supplements to overcome the breastfeeding problems. More importantly, nutritionally balanced diet is the key to overcoming various kinds of problems in lactating mothers and the babies.