You’ve supported your little one through nine months of pregnancy by eating nutrient-rich foods and taking prenatal vitamins to promote healthy development. Now, after the miraculous birth of your child, you both need to replenish and build up your stores of vital nutrients.
The Importance of Vitamins While Breastfeeding
Women are uniquely capable of bringing life into this world, but that doesn’t minimize the trauma of the experience on your body. Pregnancy, labor, and delivery deplete your stores of nutrients, and you lose a significant amount of blood as well.
Getting appropriate amounts of essential vitamins will support your postnatal healing and improve the quality of your breast milk.
Your baby is born only with the vitamins they store when in the womb. In the weeks and months after delivery, your little one’s sole source of nutrients will still be what they get from you – except now it comes from your breast milk.
When you balance your levels of important vitamins, you’re supporting your child’s growth and development.
The Best Vitamins for Breastfeeding Moms
In most cases, the best way to improve your levels of any of these vitamins is to increase your intake of nutrient-rich foods. However, it may sometimes be necessary to supplement in one area or another, depending on your deficiencies.
It’s always a good idea to check with your doctor before adding any new supplements or drastically changing your eating patterns. However, the following vitamins are generally considered safe for breastfeeding mothers to consume.
Calcium is a powerhouse vitamin. It supports healthy bones and teeth, and your body’s circulatory, nervous, and muscular systems need it to function properly.
While you were pregnant, your baby needed significant amounts of calcium to aid in their development. If they didn’t get enough, your body started to leach it from your bones, weakening you. The same phenomenon will continue as you breastfeed – your body will pull calcium from your bones to support healthy breastmilk for your little one. Even then, they may not get enough.
Where to Get Calcium
Most people tend to think of milk and other dairy products as the only sources of calcium. However, you’ll find many other sources of this nutrient as well, including some surprises like calcium-laden edible flowers and salmon.
- Animal dairy
- Fortified plant milks
- Fortified orange juice
- Leafy greens
Iron is essential for moms who are pregnant or breastfeeding. It supports healthy immune and nervous systems and improves red blood cell function and blood production.
When you were pregnant, you needed almost four times your normal blood volume to maintain a healthy pregnancy. You needed an increased iron supply to help red blood cell turnover so you didn’t become anemic.
Your baby also needed iron to develop its immune and nervous systems.
During delivery, you lost a lot of blood. Taking an iron supplement or consuming iron-rich foods can help you increase your blood volume and boost your immune system during this challenging postpartum period.
Iron doesn’t pass through you into your breast milk, so it’s perfectly safe to supplement while breastfeeding.
Where to Get Iron
Iron has two distinct forms: Heme iron – found in meat products – and non-heme iron, which is found in plant products.
Your body more easily absorbs the iron in meat than plant sources, so you should aim to get at least some of your daily needs from that category. However, vegetarians can get by with plant-based sources as long as they maximize their intake.
- Red meat
- Fortified cereal
- Potato skins
3. Vitamin A
Vitamin A is an important nutrient for both babies and moms. It improves eyesight and boosts the immune system.
While pregnant, you needed vitamin A to support your baby’s growth and prepare their immune system for entering the world. Vitamin A is stored directly in the liver until needed, so your little one can be born with some resistance to illness.
Breastfeeding will continue to boost their immunity and improve their eyesight. Vitamin A is essential for building low-light vision and the ability to see colors.
It also encourages healthy growth, enabling them to double their body weight quickly.
Vitamin A is able to transfer to your breast milk, and the amount you have available will correlate with the amount you consume. You should be able to get most of your daily allowance from a postnatal vitamin.
If your doctor finds your levels are too low, they may recommend you boost your intake of foods filled with this vital nutrient.
Where to Get Vitamin A
Similar to iron, vitamin A is found in two forms. Readily available vitamin A comes from meat sources. Plant-based sources have a form called beta-carotene, which your body converts to usable vitamin A.
- Bluefin tuna
- Leafy greens
- Orange and yellow vegetables
4. Vitamin D
Vitamin D, also called “the sunshine vitamin,” is necessary for the absorption and use of calcium to strengthen your bones. Having adequate levels of this vitamin also improves your mood.
The primary way to get plenty of this nutrient is exposure to sunlight on your skin. However, many people worldwide don’t get enough, so vitamin D deficiency is becoming quite common.
Alternatively, you can double down on foods with this nutrient, though your options are limited. Quite often, the easiest way to increase your levels is to take a supplement.
Your intake of vitamin D while pregnant helped your baby’s bones and teeth grow healthy and strong and supported their immune function.
However, the amount of this vitamin you consume after delivery doesn’t transfer to your breast milk unless taken in extreme doses. Instead, you’ll want to ask your doctor about vitamin D drops to give your little one.
Vitamin D is still essential for most new moms. After giving birth, many moms end up with low levels of this nutrient, which can exacerbate postpartum depression. You can decrease your risks by supplementing or increasing your dietary intake of vitamin D.
Where to Get Vitamin D
Vitamin D naturally occurs in only a small amount of foods. Fatty fish have the highest amounts, followed by eggs. Some breakfast foods are fortified with vitamin D to help people get more of this essential vitamin.
- Cod liver oil
- Fortified cereal
- Fortified juice
- Fortified milk
5. Postnatal Vitamins
Just like taking a prenatal vitamin is crucial for expectant mothers, taking a prenatal or postnatal vitamin is important for the continued health of yourself and your baby during the postpartum period.
Most good multivitamins for mothers will have your daily requirements of the most essential nutrients, including all of the ones above.
Postnatal vitamins can increase your milk supply and help you recover from pregnancy and birth. For breastfeeding moms, it can serve as a source of nutrients to replenish what you lose while feeding your baby.
Many doctors keep things simple and recommend you continue to take your prenatal vitamin for up to six months postpartum. However, switching to a postnatal vitamin provides a blend more specifically targeted to your current needs.
Vitamins Can Support Your Breastfeeding Journey
Prioritizing the right foods and supplements during your postpartum period and breastfeeding journey can make all the difference in your experience.
With proper nutrition, you can reduce your chances of postpartum depression, improve your milk quality and quantity, boost immunity for you and your baby, improve your health, and help your baby continue to grow big and strong.