Car seat — check. Midnight diaper changes — no problem. Baby snuggles — of course! You're rocking this parent gig already, but if all of the responsibilities have you taking a shortcut with your diet, it's time to get that under control too.
If you were a strict follower of your doctor's instructions for your prenatal vitamin, don't let the birth of your baby stop you from keeping up with your health.
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Prenatal supplements are designed to support a healthy pregnancy, but you've had a lot happen to your body over the last nine-plus months — not to mention giving birth to a baby (or multiple) — and you still have some pretty impressive nutrient needs. That's where a postnatal supplement can help fill in the gaps.
The Best Postnatal Vitamins of 2023
- Best Overall: Theralogix TheraNatal Lactation Complete Postnatal Supplement ($72 to $90, Theralogix.com)
- Best on a Budget: Nature Made Postnatal With DHA ($18.99, Amazon)
- Best Gummy: SmartyPants Prenatal ($27.27, Amazon)
- Best Vegetarian: Needed Prenatal Multi-Powder ($59.49, ThisIsNeeded.com)
- Best DHA: Nordic Naturals Postnatal Omega-3 ($28.22, Amazon)
How We Chose
When choosing these postnatal supplements, we tapped two experts in maternal nutrition for their recommendations on what is needed in the postnatal period: Kerry-Ann Kelly, MD, an ob-gyn with Spora Health, and McKenzie Caldwell, MPH, RDN, a fertility and prenatal dietitian.
In addition to providing the nutrients new birthing and breastfeeding parents need, each of these supplements has, at a minimum, met rigorous standards for quality, and that typically means they have been third-party tested for your safety and peace of mind.
Prenatal vs. Postnatal: What's the Difference?
The majority of nutrients don't change significantly from a prenatal to a postnatal supplement. The amount of iron in your postnatal will decrease. Typically folate will stay the same, but needs decrease slightly.
The following nutrients have slightly increased needs and should be included in a postnatal supplement.
1. Best Overall: Theralogix TheraNatal Lactation Complete Postnatal Supplement
This supplement offers many advantages over the others in our list if you are a breastfeeding parent. It contains all of the nutrients recommended by our experts, plus choline, selenium, magnesium and iodine, all of which Caldwell suggests having in a good postnatal.
TheraNatal also contains 6,400 IU of vitamin D. While this may sound like an excessive amount, it is currently recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics that infants take a separate vitamin D supplement (drops) because the amount provided in breastmilk is inadequate. In a randomized controlled trial, it was found that 6,400 IU of vitamin D supplement in the nursing parents was enough to supply breastmilk with enough vitamin D to forgo supplementation in the infant, according to October 2015 research in Pediatrics.
TheraNatal is third-party tested by NSF, and the daily supplement is two tablets and one softgel. If you go through your health care provider in purchasing any Theralogix supplements, you receive a discount.
Buy it: Theralogix.com; Price: $90 for a 3-month supply (or $72 with doctor's code)
2. Best on a Budget: Nature Made Postnatal With DHA
This supplement checks all the boxes for what you need in a postnatal supplement, containing all of the nutrients recommended by our experts. It contains the higher amount of vitamin D (2000 IU), DHA, folic acid, and the recommended amount of iron for lactation.
This supplement is third-party tested by USP and is a softgel which can be easier to swallow. This is also an inexpensive supplement to ensure you get all of the nutrients you need.
Buy it: Amazon; Price: $18.99
3. Best Gummy: SmartyPants Prenatal
Even though this says prenatal, this formula will support your postnatal needs with a few exceptions. This gummy contains most of the essential postnatal nutrients plus vitamin B12, iodine, choline, folate and selenium, but like most gummies it does not contain iron, so you may want to consider a separate iron supplement.
It also only contains 1,200 IU of vitamin D, so feel free to take an additional vitamin D supplement to get more.
SmartyPants prenatal also contains DHA to support your needs. It is third-party tested by NSF and gluten-free. These gummies come in fruit flavors and are a good choice if swallowing pills is an issue for you.
Buy it: Amazon; Price: $27.27 for a 30-day supply
4. Best Vegetarian: Needed Prenatal Multi-Powder
Needed's multi-powder is an unconventional way of taking your multivitamin, but it might be the way to get you to remember to take it.
It has a lot going for it, including 4,000 IU of vitamin D and the remaining nutrients you need to look for in a postnatal supplement — iodine, magnesium, vitamin B12, choline and selenium. It also contains more calcium than most multivitamin supplements.
It does not contain iron, so you'll need to get that from a separate supplement or from iron-rich foods (meat, fish, beans, lentils).
Needed claims all of their products are third-party tested for quality and for heavy metal contamination.
Buy it: ThisIsNeeded.com; Price: $59.49 for a 30-day supply
5. Best DHA: Nordic Naturals Postnatal Omega-3
Nordic Naturals is a leader in omega-3 supplements, and their postnatal omega-3 supplement may be a great choice for you if you have either chosen a multivitamin without DHA or simply need an additional DHA supplement.
It is third-party tested and is endorsed by the American Pregnancy Association. It is flavored with lemon to cut out the fishy burps that can come with fish oil supplements.
Buy it: Amazon; Price: $28.22 for a 30-day supply
What to Look for in a Postnatal Vitamin
The supplement aisle can be confusing, and the online space is even harder to navigate. Here's your checklist to help you find a high-quality postnatal vitamin:
1. The Right Nutrients
Vitamin D: Vitamin D will continue to be an important nutrient for you post-birth, regardless of whether you choose to breastfeed. Caldwell recommends a minimum of 2,000 IU in your supplement.
"Research suggests that low levels of vitamin D may be linked to postpartum depression," Dr. Kelly says. "For this reason, your doctor may recommend vitamin D as one supplement to try postpartum to help prevent and alleviate symptoms of depression, as well as support the immune system to keep you healthy."
Iron: Iron needs increase substantially during the prenatal period, but they decrease during the postnatal period. Most postnatal supplements do not contain a large amount of iron, but Caldwell suggests continuing your prenatal supplement until you run out. There is more iron in a prenatal vitamin than you will need in a postnatal, but immediately after giving birth, you may need it.
"You've likely lost a good deal of iron during birth, so this is a key nutrient many new moms will need," Dr. Kelly says. "Particularly if you're someone who typically doesn't get enough iron in their diet (like vegetarians, for example), definitely consider taking iron supplements or a postnatal vitamin with iron."
When you run out of your prenatal, feel free to make the switch to a postnatal with the OK from your health care team.
Postnatals are lower in iron than prenatals or even a typical women's multivitamin, so when you start menstruating again, you'll need to get back to the RDA of 18 grams per day.
DHA: Omega-3 fatty acids are not only important for you and your health, but also to support brain development in your baby if you are breastfeeding, Dr. Kelly says.
DHA needs increase during pregnancy, and those needs stay about the same during lactation, so if you found an omega-3 supplement you liked during pregnancy, you can continue to take that.
B12: Vitamin B12 is another necessary nutrient to get in your postnatal, says Dr. Kelly. "Babies deficient in vitamin B12 have been shown to be more irritable, have increased risk for developmental delays and failure to thrive, and more."
If you are breastfeeding, ensure your prenatal has 100 percent of your daily recommended amount of B12.
Folate: Folate needs continue during the postpartum period, but the type of folate you take isn't as important as your prenatal supplement. During the prenatal period, folate in the form of folic acid serves mainly to prevent neural tube defects in your developing infant.
During the postnatal period, all types of folate are acceptable to help keep your folate stores full. You might see folic acid, whole-food folate or methylfolate as forms of folate available in your postnatal supplement.
2. Third-Party Testing
Third-party testing means that a supplement has passed an independent review that tests for quality, purity and, most often, heavy metal contamination. There are multiple third-party testing labs, but the big three that you might see most often are NSF, USP and Consumer Lab.
Third-party testing ensures that your supplement contains what it says on the bottle and in the proper amounts. This is your first check when buying a supplement and you should think carefully about buying one that isn't tested independently.
3. Limited Fillers
Especially if you are breastfeeding, you need to ensure that your supplement does not contain any fillers that could be harmful if passed through your milk. Many supplements contain herbs or herb blends, so it's important to give a quick call to your health care provider to ensure that these are safe for you — and your baby, if you are breastfeeding.
In addition, supplements may be a source of allergens if that is something you have to worry about. The common culprits are gluten, soy and dairy.
Some multivitamins, especially gummies, have added sugar, so if that's something you're watching, just be aware.
Always check out the dosage on your supplement bottle. Often, postnatals may require more than one pill or gummy, so check your dosage before you take them to ensure that you are getting everything you need in the right amounts.
Who Needs a Postnatal?
Regardless of whether you had a vaginal or C-section birth, you have additional nutrient needs immediately following your pregnancy, especially for proper healing. Additional macronutrients — carbohydrates, protein and fat — as well as hydration will be important as you work to heal your body.
Dr. Kelly offers some sound advice: "During late-stage pregnancy and birth, your body has been through a host of physical and hormonal changes, and your nutrient needs will change, " she says. "It's vital during this time to replenish the nutrients that you've lost — both for the sake of restoring your body and nourishing your baby's, especially if you're breastfeeding."
When to Talk to Your Doctor
Everyone's needs are different, and your needs after birth are unique. It's worth a conversation with your doctor at one of your postpartum check-ups to ask if your current supplement is adequate and how long you should take it.
- NIH: "Iron"
- Medical Clinics of North America: "Nutrition Recommendations in Pregnancy and Lactation"
- American Academy of Pediatrics: "Vitamin D & Iron Supplements for Babies: AAP Recommendations"
- Pediatrics: "Maternal Versus Infant Vitamin D Supplementation During Lactation: A Randomized Controlled Trial"