Collagen is a fibrous-protein type found in connective tissue, bone, skin, cartilage, and tendon. In fact, it’s the most abundant protein in our body. You can think of it as the “glue” that holds everything together. Collagen provides cushion and support and helps us bend, stretch, and move smoothly.
In recent years, collagen has gained a lot of attention lately. As we learn more about the potential benefits of daily collagen supplements, more people — including the breastfeeding mother — are looking to know if collagen can benefit her in the months postpartum.
If you’re struggling with joint pain, stretch marks, noticing hair loss postpartum, or looking to heal and repair after labor and delivery, collagen may benefit you.
Thankfully, collagen is generally well-tolerated and does not cause any severe side effects. With that said, you’ll need to discuss taking collagen while breastfeeding with your doctor to find out if it will benefit your particular situation.
This article will discuss everything you need to know about collagen while breastfeeding, including the potential benefits. I’ll also teach you what you’ll want to look for when buying a collagen powder and how to get your body to generate more collagen!
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What is Collagen?
So, what is collagen anyway? Collagen is the main structural protein in the body. It provides support to our bones and joints and helps with healing after an injury. In humans, collagen accounts for one-third of total body protein.
There are MANY different types of collagen. However, let’s break down the most common types of collagen that you may find in supplements and food you eat:
Type I Collagen
Type I collagen accounts for 90% of the collagen found in the human body. If you’re looking for collagen to benefit your hair, skin, and nails, you’re probably looking for type I.
Our body naturally makes less collagen as we age. Levels of type I collagen in the body begin to naturally decline around the age of 25. As we know, collagen helps with promoting skin health. It plays an important role in strengthening the skin, as well as helping with elasticity and hydration. Over time, when collagen levels decline, we may begin to notice fine lines, sagging, and wrinkles. It’s commonly found in the skin, tissues, and blood vessels in cows, sheep, and pigs. It’s also found in an eggshell membrane.
Type II Collagen
You may also notice type II collagen in quite a few collagen supplements. We have type II collagen in our cartilage, or the bendable material in the ears, nose, and joints. It’s commonly used by people with osteoarthritis to reduce inflammation and alleviate joint pain. However, research still is limited to support this. In supplements, type II collagen usually comes from chicken or bovine (cow).
Type III Collagen
Type III collagen works alongside type I collagen in the skin, ligaments, and joints. It primarily comes from bovine.
You can stimulate your body’s own collagen production by eating a well-balanced diet rich in vitamin C, the amino acids glycine and lysine, zinc, and copper.
Eating a diet high in sugar and smoking can decrease collagen production.
Where is Collagen Found?
Collagen is naturally found in many animal products that we eat, like fish, shellfish, pot roast, and chicken that contain connective tissue.
Homemade bone broths are a great source of collagen. However, the taste may not be appealing to everyone.
Collagen peptides, which are found in collagen supplements, are created by breaking down whole collagen proteins into small protein chains that are made of amino acids.
After consuming collagen peptides, the small intestine absorbs them. From there, they travel throughout the body, helping support the production of collagen in your body.
When taken as a supplement, experts believe that collagen peptides build up in the skin and cartilage.
What Foods Contain Collagen?
When your body makes collagen, it combines the amino acids you get from eating protein-rich foods. I always believe in taking a food-first approach to getting your nutrients. So, you’re likely already getting some collagen from your diet or eating foods that promote collagen production.
You don’t have to spend your money on collagen supplements if you eat a well-balanced diet that includes these foods. Plus, you’ll get a ton of extra nutrients by consuming whole foods.
Bone broth is one of the most popular and well-known collagen-rich foods. It’s made by simmering animal bones and connective tissue for around 12 hours or more. Not only does this help extract collagen, but other beneficial nutrients as well. Plus, it’s more bioavailable than most supplements, meaning your body can use it right away.
Meat On the Bone
Beef, pork, and poultry are all excellent sources of collagen if it’s on the bone or has skin.
Skin-on chicken and tough cuts of meat full of connective tissue like pot roast, brisket, and steak also can help with collagen production.
Similar to animals, fish have ligaments and bones made of collagen. Unfortunately, we’re unlikely to eat the parts of fish that are higher in collagen (eyeballs, scales, etc.). However, fish are still considered to be a good source of collagen as long as you eat the skin.
Nutrients that promote collagen production are:
- Vitamin C
Foods that contain one or more nutrients to promote collagen production in the body include:
- Tropical fruits
- Citrus fruits
- Nuts and seeds
- Bell peppers
In short, eat enough protein-rich foods in combination with foods that are rich in vitamin C, zinc, and copper. This will support your body and encourage natural collagen production.
Research-Backed Benefits of Collagen while Breastfeeding
Unfortunately, there’s very limited research on collagen while breastfeeding and if there are any benefits. However, one study from 2016 noted that pregnant and postpartum women who consumed collagen had a higher quality of life and higher protein levels in the blood. They also had higher wound healing rates.
The most well-known benefit of collagen is for improving skin elasticity. For example, one study published in 2019 found that oral supplementation of collagen peptides can increase hydration and skin elasticity. It also suggests that collagen may support wound healing and healthy skin aging.
This could potentially help with stretch marks we get throughout pregnancy.
What’s more, collagen may help strengthen the hair follicle, which may indirectly support hair growth.
Is Collagen Safe For Breastfeeding?
As long as you don’t have any dietary allergies to foods containing allergies, the foods we’ve discussed are safe and healthy for breastfeeding.
In fact, it can help meet increased protein requirements as well as provide many other nutrients.
Are Collagen Supplements Safe While Breastfeeding?
For most individuals, collagen supplements are considered to be safe and well-tolerated. However, according to the National Library of Medicine, there isn’t enough research or reliable information to ensure that collagen peptides are safe during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.
With that said, many doctors are OK with it. Just have it cleared before you buy or use a collagen supplement.
In one study from 2016, pregnant women and postpartum women who were breastfeeding were given a collagen supplement. No significant or severe side effects were noticed.
If your doctor gives you the OK to take a collagen supplement while breastfeeding, it’s vital to choose collagen powder without additives, fillers, or artificial ingredients.
I personally took collagen while I was breastfeeding, and I felt great and noticed less hair loss postpartum. However, I cannot stress enough the importance of speaking to your doctor before starting new supplements while breastfeeding or pregnant. Use of this site is for educational purposes only, so be sure to always get cleared by your doctor first!
Why Collagen is Important For Breastfeeding Moms
You also may have gotten stretch marks from pregnancy. As we know, collagen supports skin elasticity. Although research is very limited on this topic, there’s absolutely no harm in adding collagen-rich foods into your diet. I personally am a huge fan of bone broth.
While breastfeeding, you need extra nutrients. Foods high in collagen are also high in protein.
According to a recent study from 2020, breastfeeding women need around 1.7-1.9 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.
That means a woman who is 155 pounds, or 70.5 kilograms, should aim to get between 119 and 133 grams of protein per day.
Protein-rich foods often contain a variety of amino acids your body needs to naturally produce collagen.
What are the Potential Risks of Taking Collagen While Breastfeeding
Generally speaking, collagen supplements are well tolerated. Studies show that most people can safely take 2.5-15 grams of collagen per day. There are no known major side effects of taking collagen peptides.
With that said, some people have reported side effects after taking collagen peptides. For example, one study found that collagen supplements may cause feelings of fullness and heartburn.
Additionally, some collagen powders contain fish, eggs, or shellfish, which are common allergens. If you have an allergy to any of these foods, be sure to check your supplement label to ensure it doesn’t contain any allergens.
How to Choose the Best Collagen For Breastfeeding
The best collagen for breastfeeding is going to be from whole, natural food sources. If you consume a well-balanced diet, you can get a range of amino acids needed to support your body’s natural collagen production. However, it can be difficult to get in your daily protein from food alone. You can also try protein powder for breastfeeding to add in extra nutrients!
If your doctor allows collagen supplements while breastfeeding, it’s essential to be sure you choose a top-quality collagen powder that’s both beneficial for you and safe for your baby.
Since supplements containing collagen are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it’s essential to know what to look for.
Here’s a quick look at the main things to look for in collagen powder.
Since the FDA doesn’t regulate supplements, choosing a brand that uses third-party testing (NSF, UL, Informed Choice, etc.) is important. This will help ensure the product is free of various chemicals that may harm your health or harmful levels of heavy metals. It also ensures the quality of the collagen powder and its ingredients are accurate.
Skip Additional Ingredients
When it comes to collagen powder, less is more. If a product claims to have all of these benefits that sound too good to be true, it’s probably a waste of your money.
Collagen protein powder should only contain collagen isolate, collagen peptides, or hydrolyzed collagen (denatured collagen). Avoid different products containing artificial sweeteners or unnecessary additives.
Cost also plays a big role in choosing a collagen supplement. As long as you choose one that has been tested by a third party and contains minimal ingredients, by all means, go for it!
My Favorite Collagen Powder For Breastfeeding
Here’s a look at a few of my favorite collagen supplementation for breastfeeding.
I personally use daily collagen supplements. Vital Proteins is my go-to every morning in my coffee and I’ve noticed improvements in my skin and hair. It really seemed to help after my postpartum hair loss with my second child. It’s a type of hydrolyzed bovine collagen and contains added vitamin C to help the body manufacture collagen.
According to an analysis of user reviews from their website, 62% of users felt improvement in the elasticity of skin and hydration, 67% experienced stronger nails, and 56% felt stronger thicker hair.
Collagen is the main structural protein in our body. At this time, most of the heavily researched benefits of collagen are related to skin and joint health.
As we age, collagen production declines. This makes it important to consume a diet rich in foods that are jam-packed with collagen or the amino acids needed for our body to produce collagen.
If your doctor allows, collagen supplements, as well as a prenatal vitamin, may also benefit you during the postpartum period and while breastfeeding.
However, since your nutrient intake passes through breast milk and to your baby, always clear any supplements you take beforehand with a doctor who is familiar with your medical history.
To optimize you and your baby’s overall health while breastfeeding, it’s vital to consume a well-balanced diet rich in protein, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I take biotin and collagen while breastfeeding?
In general, biotin is likely safe for human consumption while breastfeeding. You’ll need to ask your doctor about taking collagen, although it’s generally safe. However, you should consult with your doctor before taking any dietary supplement.
Is marine collagen safe during pregnancy?
Collagen is generally safe during pregnancy. If you have a fish or shellfish allergy, you’ll want to avoid marine collagen. Always be sure to check with your doctor beforehand.
How much collagen should I take?
Studies show a collagen intake of between 2.5 and 15 grams of collagen peptides per day to be safe. However, its a good idea to always clear it with your doctor beforehand.
Does collagen contain all 9 essential amino acids?
While collagen may offer many health benefits, it only contains 8 out of 9 essential amino acids. Therefore, it is not considered to be a complete protein.
Can I take collagen while breastfeeding?
Generally speaking, collagen is a naturally occurring protein and there are no known side effects at this time. To minimize risks and safety concerns, choose collagen peptides with minimal ingredients and free of additives. However, since research in this population is limited, it’s important to clear it with your doctor.