Prenatal Vitamins You Should Keep Taking Postpartum
At the time of writing this, I’m juggling two littles under two. Squeezed in-between diaper changes and feedings, I feel like I barely have enough time to myself to breathe. I’m in it - deep.
Needless to say, any self-care that happens, does so in the gaps - in the rare (and treasured!) moments when both are asleep. Self-care, in this context, doesn’t mean a luxurious massage or a manicure - it means the basics - like showers and meals.
Even as a committed lover of food and a dietitian, I’m sustaining myself on more toast and fewer veggies than my ideal. As important as it is to eat well, it’s still hard to prioritize meal prep!!
While I keep real food as the ultimate goal, I find its equally important to chillax about the whole thing. This is a fleeting time when my babies need a lot from me. I’m not going for the gold standard, just going for nourishing myself the best I can without too much stress.
Vitamins and supplements are a reassuring insurance policy during this time.
When I don’t fill my plate with a rainbow of veggies (ahem - it’s been awhile), it eases my mind to know I’m fortifying myself and my breastmilk with a supplement.
Before I go on, I can’t miss this opportunity to give real food a shout-out. Isolating nutrients into individual vitamins & minerals sold as pills cannot compare to the power of whole foods. That said, there are a circumstances when supplements are needed. Pregnancy, pre, during and post, are a few of those times.
We recommend continuing to take your prenatal vitamins at least 6-months after delivery to give your body a chance to replenish.
What few women realize is that your nutrient needs are HIGHER postpartum, especially if breastfeeding, than they were during pregnancy. If a next baby is on the horizon within 1-3 years, there's no reason to stop taking your prenatal vitamins.
THREE SUPPLEMENTS YOU SHOULD BE TAKING POSTPARTUM
1. Vitamin D
You’ve been hearing about vitamin D for years now, for everything from obesity and depression. It’s worth the hype.
While breastfeeding, it’s particularly important to get enough vitamin D because it facilitates calcium absorption for baby’s bone development, while potentially protecting you from postpartum depression and other unwanted hormonal issues.
Start by getting your serum vitamin D levels tested to find out how much you should be supplementing with.
Note: If baby is exclusively breastfed and you’re taking less than 6,400 IU/day of vitamin D3, its recommended the little one gets a vitamin D3 supplement* of 400 IU/day.
Omega-3 fatty acids (think DHA and EPA) are essential during all times of life, but especially during pregnancy and postpartum. Since the top food source is cold-water fatty fish, most of us do not eat enough of them.
For you, omega-3 fats speed up recovery by reducing post-stress inflammation, as well as helping protect you from postpartum depression (why not take all the help we can get to enjoy this short life?!).
For your new little nugget, omega-3s are essential for brain development. If you want an Einstein baby, eat omega-3s! DHA, is particularly important for that genius baby brain.
Lesser known than the above two nutrients, choline is equally important. Like folate, choline is an essential ingredient in spinal cord development. Emerging research suggests choline improves memory all the way through to adulthood. Choline is also a building block in the formation of lecithin, which has been shown to help prevent clogged ducts (ouch!).
Supplementation is important because your needs are at all time high while breastfeeding and its SO hard to get enough choline from food alone. Egg yolks are the top food source of choline, but you’d have to eat at least 4 of them every day to meet your needs.
Which prenatal do we recommend?
Beyond these three supplements, you need a full suite of vitamins & minerals to replenish stores depleted during pregnancy.
Our top pick choice? The Full Circle Prenatal, developed by registered dietitian, Ayla Barmmer. It is one of the few options that provides even close to enough vitamin D and choline. We also like that the nutrients she uses are food-based and in the most absorbable form for the most people.
Note that this prenatal does not include DHA/EPA. For this, we recommend the Nordic Naturals Prenatal DHA* (if you’re not eating fatty fish like salmon 2-3 times per week).
*We do not receive any financial kickbacks for these recommendations.