Pharmacy shelves are stocked with several brands of prenatal vitamins, but few brands are marketed specifically to new mothers. Supplementing with vitamins after giving birth, however, can help you recover from the physical and physiological effects of pregnancy and can even benefit the health of your newborn if you are breast-feeding.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Some women suffer from postpartum depression after giving birth. The November 2012 issue of "Canadian Journal of Psychiatry" reviewed numerous studies and found that there is a link between omega-3 fatty acid deficiency and postpartum depression. Docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, is one of the most beneficial omega-3 acids. DHA helps make breast milk and supports the development of the newborn’s brain, eyes and central nervous system. It is passed on to your baby through your breast milk. The American Pregnancy Association recommends supplementing with 300 milligrams daily.
Vitamin B-9 or folic acid is the only vitamin that is typically lacking in women’s diets in western countries. During pregnancy, women supplement with folic acid to aid in the development of the baby’s nervous system, but nursing mothers can also continue to pass on this important vitamin to their newborns. Folic acid has also been shown to alleviate the symptoms of postpartum depression. The U.S. Department of Health and Social Services recommends that breastfeeding mothers supplement with 500 micrograms of folic acid daily.
Zinc is an essential trace mineral that supports the immune system and helps protect the body from damage caused by free radicals. Pregnancy affects how your body absorbs zinc, so new mothers can often lack zinc. A study conducted by the Australian Maternal and Child Health Service found that new mothers who supplemented with zinc had improved energy levels while their babies had less incidence and severity of infant colic. Consume at least 18 milligrams of zinc daily, whether in vitamin form or through a diet of eggs, meat, whole flour and oats if you are breastfeeding.
Women actually lose bone density in the early stages of nursing. Nursing mothers need 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day to support their bone health as well as their baby’s growth. Dairy products, raw vegetables, almonds and hazelnuts contain high doses of calcium, but if you cannot get your daily requirement through food, you will have to supplement with calcium-enriched foods such as orange juice or through supplements.
Vitamin A helps to maintain healthy skin, teeth, skeletal and soft tissue and promotes good vision. The need for vitamin A rises in new mothers to 1,300 micrograms per day. Women who are breastfeeding see an even bigger deficiency in this vitamin as it passes through their breast milk. You should be able to get most of that daily requirement from eating carrots, vegetables, fish and meat, but if you find that you are still deficient, you should supplement with vitamin A tablets
- Pregnancy.org: The Nursing Mother’s Diet
- American Pregnancy Association: Omega-3 Fish Oil and Pregnancy
- Canadian Journal of Psychiatry: Emerging Risk Factors for Postpartum Depression: Serotonin Transporter Genotype and Omega-3 Fatty Acid Status
- Kellymom: Vitamins & Other Supplements for Breastfeeding Mothers
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: Calcium
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin A
- Pregnancy.org: Baby and Beyond
- Babycenter: Your Postpartum Health