Pregnancy books, courses and blogs often stress the necessity of good nutrition and proper supplementation when you’re pregnant, based on the increased nutrient needs for your growing baby (and you!). We all know we need to take a prenatal while we’re pregnant, but little is talked about the postpartum period.
While I’m not typically one to promote supplements over whole foods (I have my list of the ones I always recommend, and there are of course some necessitated by certain health concerns) postpartum is one time that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend supplementing your diet with good-quality nutrients, for a few reasons:
1. Your body is already depleted, and if you’re breastfeeding, your baby is further-depleting it. Childbirth has been likened to running a marathon, with the stress it puts on your body– not to mention the last nine months your body spent prioritizing growing another human. There is a high likelihood your stores of essential nutrients (like iron, calcium and omega-3s) are low, if not all-out depleted.
2. You are run down and exhausted, and need all the help you can get– nutritionally and otherwise! Now is not the time to buck up and chalk up your all-out exhaustion and lack of concentration to sleepless nights– not when you can do something about it! Your kiddos, husband and any people around you who need you need the best version of you, and when exhaustion is normal in those early days of motherhood, you can combat it somewhat by ensuring your diet is full of nutrient-rich foods and supplementing whne you can.
3. We often simply don’t have the time to focus on a balanced diet! “Oh I just spend a few hours each week meal prepping all of our meals,” said no new mom EVER. Let’s be realistic, mama- those first couple of months are rough. Your hands are full (especially if this baby is not your first!) and often it’s simply survival mode, get in what you can, when you can. Balancing nutrients is typically the farthest thing from a new mama’s mind.
So how can we replenish those depleted nutrients, increase energy and boost our diets without worrying about planning and prepping every meal (we’ll get there, very soon)? Adding some high-quality supplements (and just the ones you need, we don’t want to add MORE to your plate) can help immensely during this time period. Here are my top six postpartum supplements (and a few you might want to consider):
In parentethes, I’ve also included food sources of each of the vitamins.
1. A good-quality probiotic. Especially for breastfeeding mamas, a probiotic is essential for helping to maintain your breast milk stores and keep your immune system up (70% of the immune system is in the gut!). Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir and kombucha are good for probiotics, as well.
2. A well-formulated multivitamin. Continuing to take your prenatal, or a specially formulated postnatal vitamin like this one by New Chapter (not sponsored- I just love it!) is the best ‘insurance policy’ you can give to your often lacking diet, these days. There is no substitute for a healthy diet, of course- so make sure you’re doing your best to get in those veggies, fruit, protein and healthy fats!
3. Vitamin D3. I can not begin to express the importance of Vitamin D, especially in the winter and especially in the northern hemisphere, which I know is where most of you are located! Low vitamin D is a huge contributor to lack of energy, as well as mood and anxiety disorders. As a bonus, for you breastfeeding mamas, recent studies have shown if you take 6,000 iu a day- you don’t need to supplement your baby. Vitamin D comes primarily from time spent in the sun; there are small amounts present in pastured egg yolks, seafood and grass-fed butter.
4. Vitamin C. This isn’t a typically recommended supplement, but I recommend it to all new and nursing mamas, because your immune system is naturally lowered- and water soluble vitamins are transferred through the breast milk (to a limit) so your little is getting a boost, as well. Berries, citrus fruit, bell peppers, broccoli, kale and brussels sprouts are all great sources of Vitamin C.
5. Good-quality fish oil (DHA). Your DHA stores are depleted during late pregnancy due to the need of the growing baby- but they are essential to both your health and your baby’s brain development for the first two years. The American Pregnancy Organization stresses the necessity of DHA for babies through breastmilk in the first year (and beyond). And for mama- Omega-3’s are critical for brain health, and though there are no direct correlations between low DHA and postpartum mood disorders, boosting your intake can only help your mood, brain fog and memory during the foggy first weeks of motherhood. Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and sardines, as well as chia and hemp seeds and walnuts are great sources of omega-3s.
6. Bone Strength supplement (or calcium/magnesium supplement). Your bone health is affected during breastfeeding, up to a 5% of reduction in bone mass, so taking care of your bones is essential, especially if you are not keeping up with daily calcium intake. Green leafy vegetables, almonds, fish with the bones (such as sardines or canned salmon), bone broth, yogurt or kefir and grass-fed or raw milk and cheese are great sources of calcium.
Good to have
There are some supplements that might not be essential for every postpartum, but some may benefit greatly from. These include:
Iron: If you lost extra blood during delivery or have a history of iron deficiency (during or outside of pregnancy), iron is especially important to get in. Including more red meats (with vitamin C for absorption), beans and cooked green leafy vegetables can help- but again, if you’re still feeling low energy or know your stores are low, a whole food based iron supplement like Floradix or a beef liver supplement (my personal favorite is from Vital Proteins) can help boost your stores.
B-Complex: Some mamas find a B-complex incredibly helpful in boosting their energy (B-12 is also important in recovering after childbirth) postpartum. This is especially important if you are not getting a variety of veggies and fruits (healthy mama super smoothies can be a great b-vitamin booster!)
Are there any supplements you found helpful in the postpartum period? Share with us below or in the Facebook Community!
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Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or dietitian and my suggestions are never intended to diagnose or treat disease. I am a holistic nutritionist and my only intent is to educate women to help them enjoy better health and find the best balance that works for them. Please consult with your medical practitioner before making any changes to your diet or lifestyle.