You’ve likely read up on the importance of prenatal vitamins and how certain nutrients are needed in higher amounts during pregnancy, but did you know that the same is true even after you’ve given birth? Postnatal vitamins are used to ensure that new moms get the vitamins and minerals they need after giving birth.
While eating a healthy, balanced diet is key or maintaining proper macronutrients and micronutrient levels, supplementing with the most important vitamins and minerals can support breastfeeding and recovery after giving birth.
What Are Postnatal Vitamins?
Postnatal vitamins provide the nutrients that women need during the postpartum period, after giving birth. While it’s important for women to maintain healthy levels of all macro- and micronutrients during this period, some vitamins and minerals play an important role in hormone balance, breast milk supply and healthy energy levels.
Typically, a prenatal vitamin can be continued during the months after birth as well. Those nutrients are also needed during breastfeeding and the recovery phase.
In essence, these vitamins are beneficial for women during their reproductive years.
Best Postnatal Vitamins to Take
The nutrients that are most important during pregnancy are also needed after delivery, especially for women who are breastfeeding. Here’s a breakdown of the most important vitamins and minerals for the postnatal period:
Iron is an important nutrient during pregnancy and after birth. It helps prevent anemia, which can be exacerbated when a woman loses blood during delivery.
If you have low iron levels and you’re taking a pre- or postnatal multivitamin, make sure it includes iron. If not, you can take a separate iron supplement for six to eight weeks after delivery or until your health care provider recommends stopping.
The daily recommended intake of iron for lactating women is 27 milligrams.
Calcium is needed for mom’s and baby’s bones, so getting enough while breastfeeding is important. Calcium is also needed for the circulatory, muscular and nervous systems to function properly.
The recommended daily intake of calcium for pregnant and breastfeeding women is 1,000 milligrams.
3. Vitamin D
Research indicates that efforts should be made to optimize vitamin D status in mothers during and after pregnancy to support healthy levels in the infant and mom. Not only do infants need vitamin D for healthy bones and teeth, but the nutrient also impacts women’s brain function, immunity, hormones and mood.
Breastfeeding women should get about 600 international units (or 15 micrograms) of vitamin D per day.
Choline is a nutrient that plays a role in nerve function, muscle movement, metabolism, energy and several other important body processes. The recommended daily intake for women who are breastfeeding is 550 milligrams of choline.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an essential fatty acid that needs to be consumed in food or supplement form to maintain healthy levels. It supports infant development, and studies suggest that there are long-term benefits for infants with higher levels of DHA, including faster development of behavioral functions.
Deficits in DHA may lead to learning impairments among infants.
Babies get DHA through breast milk, so mothers need to make sure they get enough of the fat in food or supplement form. Breastfeeding women need between 300–900 milligrams of combined DHA and EPA (another omega-3 fats acid) per day.
How to Take/Dosage
Postnatal vitamins are taken after birth, typically for as long as you’re breastfeeding and your body is recovering from pregnancy. Speak to your doctor or midwife for usage and dosage recommendations for your body and lifestyle specifically.
Postnatal multivitamins are available online and at health food stores. You can find them in capsule, gummy and powder forms.
Look for a reputable brand, ideally with a USDA Certified Organic label and a full list of ingredients and dosage. If you’re going for a multivitamin, make sure to choose one that includes DHA.
When you no longer need postnatal vitamins, you can switch over to a standard multivitamin to ensure that you maintain healthy levels of micronutrients, especially if your diet is lacking in certain areas.
The best way to maintain healthy levels of vitamins and minerals is by eating a diet rich in colorful, fresh foods, just like the pregnancy diet. The foods that are highest in postnatal nutrients and should be incorporated into a woman’s diet after giving birth include:
- Goat cheese
- Brussels sprouts
- Swiss chard
- While beans
- Black beans
- Navy beans
- Split peas
- Wild-caught fish
- Organic poultry
- Grass-fed beef
- Cafe-free eggs
- Portobello mushrooms
- Pumpkin seeds
- Chia seeds
Women also need plenty of water during the postpartum period. Staying hydrated supports breast milk supply, energy levels and overall body function. Keep a water bottle close by throughout the day, and opt for drinking about 12–16 cups of water, depending on how often you nurse.
Risks and Side Effects
When it comes to getting enough micronutrients for optimal health, supplements aren’t a replacement for a healthy diet. They work best when taken as part of a balanced, healthy diet.
Supplements can be used to cover any potential gaps in your diet.
If you take any medications, check with your health care provider before using vitamin supplements. If you experience adverse reactions or side effects of a supplement, such as nausea, diarrhea, rash or flushing, discontinue use, and speak to your doctor.
- Postnatal vitamins provide the nutrients that women need during the postpartum period, after giving birth.
- While it’s important for women to maintain healthy levels of all macro- and micronutrients during this period, some vitamins and minerals play an important role in hormone balance, breast milk supply, mood, brain function and healthy energy levels.
- Some of the most important nutrients during the post-birth period include iron, calcium, vitamin D, choline and DHA. You can get these vitamins and minerals from leafy greens, organic animal meat, dairy products, nuts and seeds, and legumes. Taking a postnatal supplement can help fill any gaps from your diet.