Nutritional requirements during lactation. Towards European alignment of reference values: the EURRECA network

Matern Child Nutr. 2010 Oct;6 Suppl 2(Suppl 2):39-54. doi: 10.1111/j.1740-8709.2010.00276.x.


There is considerable variation in reference values for micronutrient intake during lactation across Europe. The European Micronutrients Recommendations Aligned project aims to harmonize dietary recommendations throughout Europe. Recommended nutrient intakes during lactation are based on limited data and are often extrapolated from known secretion of the nutrient in milk with adjustments for bioavailability, so that differences between values can be partly ascribed to differences in methodological approaches and how these approaches were applied. Few studies have considered the impact of lactation on the mother's nutritional status. Rather, focus has been placed on the influence of maternal nutritional status on the composition of her breast milk. Most common nutritional deficits in breast milk are the result of maternal deficiencies of the water-soluble vitamins, thiamine, riboflavin and vitamins B6 and B12. Other than maternal vitamin A status, which to some extent is reflected in breast milk, concentrations of fat-soluble vitamins and most minerals in breast milk are less affected by maternal status. Factors relating to suboptimal maternal nutritional status during lactation include maternal age, diet and lifestyle factors and spacing of consecutive births. Recent research is providing new knowledge on the micronutrient requirements of lactating women. Identifying needs for research and improving understanding of the differences in values that have been derived by various committees and groups across Europe will enhance transparency and facilitate the application of dietary recommendations in policy-making decision and their translation into recommendations for lactating women. Given the wide variation in breastfeeding practices across Europe, making nutritional recommendations for lactating women is complex and challenging. Thus, it is crucial to first examine the cultural practices within and across European populations and to assess its relevance before making recommendations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • European Union
  • Evidence-Based Practice
  • Female
  • Health Promotion
  • Humans
  • Lactation / metabolism*
  • Micronutrients / administration & dosage*
  • Micronutrients / metabolism
  • Nutrition Policy*
  • Nutritional Requirements*
  • Reference Values


  • Micronutrients