Everything You Need to Know in 2024 About Taking Postnatal Vitamins as a New Mother

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    Do I switch from pre to postnatal vitamins now that the baby is born? Do I even need to take supplements? If so, what, when, why? It’s time to get some answers.

    Do I really need to take postnatal vitamins?

    By the time you’ve given birth, you probably know everything you need to know about prenatal vitamins. They’ve helped to promote fetal development while ensuring that the birthing parent continued to maintain excellent health throughout the pregnancy. But what you’re probably not thinking about at this incredible time in your life are your own nutritional needs.

    While your body has done an amazing job of creating this new life, it has also depleted your nutrient supply to do so. Pregnancy depletes nutrients like folate, vitamin D, iron, selenium, calcium, and fatty acids. Post-pregnancy, people are at a higher risk for micronutrient deficiencies. The Counseling for Maternal Health and Newborn Health Care Handbook for Building Skills encourages the birthing parent to eat a great amount and variety of healthy, normal foods. Optimal nutrition has immeasurable benefits to both you and your baby at this time. It is important for you to eat as nutrient dense as possible, have a support system, a resource guide, and a plan to support your wellness.

    There are many changes occurring in the body post-pregnancy, so bridging any nutrient gaps with diet and postnatal vitamin supplementation can be beneficial to the overall health of both the baby and its birthing person. Always talk to your doctor to determine the best plan for you moving forward.

    What vitamins should I be taking postnatal?

    When choosing a postnatal supplement, it is important to find a high-quality product that is recommended by your healthcare provider. A good postnatal should contain a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients such as DHA, EPA, choline, iron, zinc, folate, B12, vitamin D, selenium, vitamins B1, B2, B6 and vitamin A. You may not be able to find a single supplement that meets all of your nutritional needs, especially while breastfeeding.

    The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends continuation of any prenatal vitamins for at least 3 months into the postpartum period in geographic regions with a high incidence (more than 40%) of anemia during pregnancy.

    Always have your healthcare provider measure iron levels before taking iron supplements, as high levels can be toxic. Check your iron levels periodically throughout supplementation to ensure they don’t get too high.

    If you are experiencing hair loss, usually temporary and the result of hormonal changes, your potential vitamin supplementation might include vitamin D, iron, and zinc.

    What postnatal vitamins should I take if I’m breastfeeding?

    When breastfeeding, nutrient demands increase, so taking a postnatal vitamin can be helpful. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are omega 3 fatty acids that are included in most pre and postnatal vitamins. It’s critical for the fetus’ brain growth but also for newborns and infants during a time of rapid growth. Mothers may get enough DHA in their diet to pass it on to their breastfed babies, but check with your physician to be certain.

    Choline plays an important role in brain development. It also has many benefits for mothers, including better immune response. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of 450 mg/day during pregnancy should be increased to 550 mg/day while breastfeeding.

    Pregnant people lose a lot of blood and can be at risk for iron deficiency. While breastfeeding, birthing mothers should have their iron levels checked on a regular basis. If supplementing, it is important to check the levels periodically to insure they do not get too high, as higher levels can become toxic. If your postnatal vitamin does not contain iron, you can find it in other supplements such as Care/of’s iron, The Blood Booster.

    The NIH recommends 600 IU of vitamin D for a breastfeeding parent. The baby will not get enough D from the parent alone, however. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants who are breastfed only, or receive less than 1 liter of formula a day, get 400 IU of vitamin D daily until their first birthday. Care/of’s Vitamin D: The Sunny D3 is an excellent source of vitamin D for adults.

    A vitamin B12 deficiency in a breastfeeding parent can affect the nutrient quality of the milk. A vegan or vegetarian diet can also reduce the amount of B12 in both the parent and the baby. Have your levels checked. Supplementation is readily available in high quality products like Care/of’s Vitamin B12: The Energizer.

    Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant available in most citrus fruits, bell peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, and leafy greens. If the breastfeeding parent is not getting enough fruit and vegetables in their diet, supplementing can help. The recommended intake of vitamin C in lactating humans is 120 mg/day and it is available in high quality, easily digestible products like Care/of’s vitamin C supplement, dubbed The Citrus Savior.

    The American Thyroid Association recommends that breastfeeding people take a daily supplement that contains 150 mcg of iodine. If your postnatal vitamin does not contain iodine, you can find it in other supplements. Check with your healthcare provider before starting any iodine supplementation as too much can be harmful.

    In this study, the use of prebiotics and probiotics during pregnancy, lactation, and postnatal life was found to be a safe and feasible way to alter the maternal microbiome. In other words, they’re good for your gut.

    What vitamins should I take if I’m not breastfeeding?

    Whether or not a person chooses to breastfeed, giving birth has a serious impact on the birthing person’s overall nutritional well-being. Your schedule, eating habits, and stress level are just a few things that will now be in flux, especially at first. It is important to have appropriate guidance and support when making decisions about nutrition and health. Check with your physician about possible supplementation as part of your postpartum care.

    A lot of blood can be lost during pregnancy and birth, so have your iron levels checked. If you are deficient and supplementation is required, continue to monitor them as excessively high levels of iron can result in toxicity.

    Birthing persons who choose not to breastfeed can also have a vitamin D deficiency and should have these levels checked. Most postnatal vitamins do not have enough vitamin D for their needs, so supplementing with additional vitamin D might be necessary. Aside from sunlight, D can be found in high quality products like Care/of’s vitamin D supplement, The Sunny D3.

    Vitamin C has strong antioxidant properties which could be beneficial at this time. It is a water-soluble vitamin so your body will excrete what you don’t use through urine. If you are not getting enough, you can find a high quality, easily digestible product like Care/of’s vitamin C supplement, The Citrus Savior.

    When should I start taking postnatal vitamins?

    Postnatal vitamins are typically started immediately after the baby is born. As always, check with your physician to determine if, when, and what you should take for supplementation as each person has specific needs.

    How long should I take postnatal vitamins for?

    The general consensus is to take them for 6 months or until you have stopped breastfeeding. That said, there is no absolute time frame. If your physician has suggested that you take postnatal vitamins and supplementation, check with them before you stop taking anything.

    Prenatal vs postnatal vitamins: what’s the difference?

    Prenatal vitamins are generally recommended when someone is thinking about, trying to, or actually become pregnant. They are designed to support and fill in nutritional gaps during pregnancy.

    The postpartum period is even more demanding nutrient-wise than pregnancy, especially when breastfeeding. While many of the supplements may be the same, the dosage and frequency are likely to change. There could also be additional supplements that aren’t part of a prenatal regimen.

    Consult with your physician for your own best course of action.

    Key takeaways

    Postnatal vitamins can be a great asset to your health and wellness support care plan. It is critical to consult with your physician and healthcare team to determine the best course of action for you. Your needs will change in the months after giving birth, so it is important to keep your wellness team informed of changes in your body, your mood, and your overall sense of well-being.

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    Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS
    Medical Content Manager
    Dr. Montrond-Correia is a licensed naturopathic physician and a certified nutrition specialist (CNS). She holds degrees from University of Bridgeport, Georgetown University, and University of Saint Joseph, and supplemented her education with internships in the health and wellness space. She's focused on research, herbal medicine, nutrigenomics, and integrative and functional medicine. She makes time for exercise, artistic activities, and enjoying delicious food.
    Our Editorial Staff
    Freelance Contributor
    The Care/of Editorial Team is made up of writers, experts, and health enthusiasts, all dedicated to giving you the information you need today. Our team is here to answer your biggest wellness questions, read the studies for you, and introduce you to your new favorite product, staying up to date on the latest research, trends, and science. Each article is written by one of our experts, reviewed both for editorial standards by an editor and medical standards by one of our naturopathic doctors, and updated regularly as new information becomes available.