For the 40 weeks you carry a child, you're constantly concerned about whether the nutrients you're putting into your body are giving your baby what he needs. After you deliver your baby, you shouldn't stop thinking about it -- your body needs the right vitamins to help heal itself. Moms who are breastfeeding also need to continue to take their baby's nutritional needs into consideration.
Continue Folic Acid
Folic acid, also known as folate, is one of the top vitamins a pregnant woman needs. A B vitamin, it helps prevent spina bifida and other disabilities in her baby. When the baby is delivered, you should continue to take folic acid, says WomensHealth.gov, and you should aim for around 500 micrograms a day. Folic acid also plays a role in the health of your blood, along with your heart health.
Vitamin D and Breastfeeding
Your infant needs vitamin D, which he can only get through a combination of your breast milk and sun exposure. However, sun exposure can be risky for everyone because of potential skin damage, so you should take care to consume an adequate amount of vitamin D. A study published in 2004 in "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" determined that the standard recommendation of 400 International Units per day is not sufficient for nursing mothers. Instead, researchers recommend a maternal intake of 2,000 to 4,000 IUs per day to improve the vitamin D levels of both mother and child.
Replenish Iron With the Help of Vitamin C
Although iron is a mineral, it's a significant nutrient that you need to replenish after delivery, as the loss of blood during the birth process likely depleted your stores. Vitamin C aids in iron absorption, so you should take this vitamin at the same time as you eat foods high in iron or take a supplement. Your body best absorbs the iron that comes from animal tissue, such as meat, fish and poultry, versus plant-based sources. Pair it with foods such as citrus, strawberries, bell peppers, kale or broccoli, all of which are high in vitamin C. The UCSF Medical Center says that nursing mothers need 120 milligrams of vitamin C a day. Take only up to 45 milligrams of iron a day unless your doctor tells you otherwise; this is the amount that's safe for breast-feeding women, says Medline Plus.
Food Versus Supplements
Ideally, you'll consume your vitamins from foods rather than supplements, says Sutter Health. If you eat a varied diet with foods from all the food groups, you probably don't need a multivitamin any more. However, you can continue to take your prenatal vitamins for up to six week after birth, although you should check with your doctor. Prenatal vitamins might have too much iron, leaving you feeling constipated or with an upset stomach. In that case, you can switch to a general multivitamin.
- WomensHealth.gov: Folic Acid Fact Sheet
- UCSF Medical Center: Nutrition Tips for Breastfeeding Mothers
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Vitamin D Requirements During Lactation: High-Dose Maternal Supplementation as Therapy to Prevent Hypovitaminosis D for Both the Mother and the Nursing Infant
- Sutter Health: Postpartum Nutrition
- Medline Plus: Iron
- Association of Reproductive Health Professionals: Diet, Nutrition, and Exercise