Calcium is one of the most important minerals for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Your baby starts to develop and strengthen their bones in the third trimester of pregnancy and will rely on you for calcium. During breastfeeding, calcium will be passed to your baby through breastmilk.
All women aged 19 to 50 years old should aim for 1,000 mg calcium each day. This recommendation is the same for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Eating 3-5 serves of calcium-rich foods will help you achieve the recommended daily intake of calcium.
If you don’t get enough calcium when you’re pregnant, your baby will draw it from your bones which can affect your health, and increase your risk of osteoporosis (bone loss) when you’re older.
It’s best to get calcium from your diet rather than supplements.
Good sources of calcium include:
- Dairy (e.g. milk, yoghurt, cheese), including low-fat options
- Leafy green vegetables (e.g. kale, bok choy, celery, broccoli)
- Soy and tofu
- Beans and lentils
- Seafood (e.g. sardines, salmon, mussels, oysters)
- Nuts and seeds (e.g. almonds).
Food manufacturers sometimes add certain vitamins and minerals to their products through a process known as ‘fortification’. Calcium-fortified foods have calcium added during the manufacturing process. Common calcium-fortified products include bread, cereal and fruit juice. For example, Kellogg’s Special K Original has 200 mg calcium per 30 g (1 serve) which is almost as much calcium from drinking a glass of milk.
Take a look at the summary below and calculate if you’re getting 1,000 mg per day. Most people don’t get enough calcium in their diet, so try to work out a daily meal plan to include more calcium-rich foods throughout the day. Your body can only absorb about 500mg of calcium at one time so try to get a serve of calcium for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
If you’re not sure if you’re getting enough calcium, speak with your doctor, midwife or obstetrician. Don’t start taking a calcium supplement unless it’s recommended. Too much calcium supplements can cause constipation, kidney stones and other health issues.