Share on Pinterest

We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Here’s our process.

If you’re like most new moms, every part of you is letting you know just how much energy and effort you spent bringing a baby into the world.

Your body has done a marvelous job at producing another human being, but it drew heavily on your stores of vitamins and minerals to do so. Part of your postpartum plan for self-care should be replenishing and adding to the nutrient stores you need to thrive.

Pregnancy depletes several nutrients in the body, including folate, calcium and vitamin B6. What’s more, if you’re breastfeeding, your daily recommended dose of many nutrients is even higher than it was in pregnancy.

Often, lactating women don’t meet their recommended intake of calcium, zinc, magnesium and other critical nutrients. When lactating, your dietary intake of vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, B12, D, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), choline, and iodine go, in part, toward making milk.

Optimal nutrition helps build your baby’s body and brain. The brain develops most rapidly during infancy and toddlerhood, so if you think about it, your milk is developing the neural base that your baby will use for a lifetime of cognition.

Although a nutrient-dense, well-rounded diet can help you meet your nutrient needs, experts recommend that supplements be taken after delivery to ensure that your nutrient stores are being properly replenished.

It’s likely that you were taking a prenatal vitamin when you were expecting. In many cases, doctors recommend continuing the same prenatal vitamin after your baby is born.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends taking postnatal vitamins for as long as you are breastfeeding. And some experts say that best practice it to keep going beyond that… especially if you’re planning on having another baby. You don’t want to start another pregnancy on an empty tank.

Women who choose not to breastfeed should also continue to take their prenatal vitamins for at least 6 months postpartum to ensure that their nutrient stores are replenished.

During breastfeeding, your needs for certain nutrients are even higher than they were during pregnancy. For that reason, it’s important to continue supplementing your diet with vitamins, minerals, and other important compounds during your entire breastfeeding journey.

Some of the nutrients that are most important for breastfeeding moms include:

Iron

New moms are sometimes iron-deficient, especially if they were anemic during pregnancy.

“Tiredness, shortness of breath with minimal exertion and low energy levels are typical symptoms of an iron deficiency. A simple blood test will show both blood iron levels and iron stores,” says Nina Dahan, RD, coordinator of the Nutrition Center at the Maimonides Medical Center in New York.

“An OB-GYN will typically recommend this blood test at 6 weeks, but you can be proactive and ask for it sooner. Make sure to take your iron supplement with vitamin C to boost your body’s intake. The sooner you build up your iron stores, the faster you’ll put an end to one of unpleasant side effects of iron supplements — constipation.”

The daily recommendation for iron intake for lactating women, ages 19 to 50, is 10 milligrams (mg). Still, Dahan suggests having your medical practitioner use your blood test results to adjust the dosage to reflect your unique needs.

In addition to supplementation, consumption of iron-rich foods including organ meats, red meat, and shellfish can help you increase your iron stores naturally.

Iodine

You’ll need this mineral to keep your thyroid in tip-top shape and to help your baby’s brain and nervous system develop.

Foods such as iodized salt, fish, dairy products, and food made from whole grains all contain some iodine. But if you opt for a supplement, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends that breastfeeding women get 290 micrograms (mcg) of iodine daily.

Keep in mind that most prenatal vitamins do not contain iodine. If your prenatal vitamin does not contain iodine, and you don’t consume iodine-rich foods regularly, a separate iodine supplement may be needed to ensure optimal levels.

Vitamin D

The NIH recommends a daily intake of 600 IU (15mcg) for breastfeeding moms. Does this dosage ensure that your baby gets sufficient vitamin D from your breast milk or that your vitamin D levels remain within a healthy range? Actually, no.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that infants who are exclusively breastfed or receive less than 1 liter of formula daily get 400 IU of vitamin D daily, starting from day 1 through until your baby reaches their first birthday.

Some babies don’t like the taste of the vitamin D drops; some moms don’t like the mess. But a 2015 study gives you the perfect solution: by increasing your vitamin D intake to 6,400 IU daily, your baby will get a sufficient supply. If you’re planning on using this strategy, check that your supplement is giving you 6,400 IU daily.

Moms who can’t or choose not to breastfeed also often need much more vitamin D than what’s currently recommended or included in most prenatal vitamins. Have your doctor check your vitamin D levels and then supplement with vitamin D3 accordingly.

Vitamin B12

B12 supplements are strongly recommended for mothers who adhere to vegetarian diets that include no animal products, such as vegan and macrobiotic diets. Such diets can lead to a vitamin B12 deficiency in mom and/or baby because this vitamin is primarily available from animal protein.

Not consuming enough vitamin B12 in your diet can impact the nutrient quality of your breast milk and reduce the amount of vitamin B12 your baby is consuming. This is why getting enough B12 through your diet and supplementation is critical.

Choline

Most moms aren’t getting enough of this brain-building nutrient. Choline is a nutrient that’s similar to B vitamins. A 2019study suggested that lactating moms up their choline intake to 550 mg/day. Your supplement may contain choline in the form of choline bitartrate, phosphatidylcholine, or lecithin.

Alternatively, you can increase your intake of meat, eggs, poultry, fish, and dairy, as these products provide natural sources of choline. Women who follow vegan and vegetarian diets will likely need to supplement with choline since they are often at a greater risk for choline inadequacy.

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)

DHA is an omega-3 polyunsaturated fat that helps to develop your baby’s brain, eye, and nervous system. Like all omega-3s, DHA isn’t made in the body so you’ll need to ensure your intake through food or supplements.

Good food choices for DHA are salmon, tuna, sardines, and mackerel. Aim to eat these at least once or twice a week.

If you opt for supplements, look for a supplement that offers at least 250 to 375 mg of DHA plus EPA. Because many prenatal supplements don’t contain DHA, you may need to take a separate omega-3 supplement, like a high-quality fish oil, to meet your needs.

Popular prenatal/postnatal vitamins for breastfeeding moms

Always check with your doctor before beginning any supplement.

Healthline

Hair loss is one of the things you didn’t sign up for when you became pregnant. But, for most women, it’s part of the package deal. Luckily, postpartum hair loss is typically due to hormonal changes and is usually temporary.

Protein, iron, folate, zinc, and vitamins A, C, D and E all promote hair and nail growth, so you’ll want to make sure that your supplement includes these. Continuing your prenatal supplement and following a nutrient-dense diet are some of the best ways to keep your hair healthy after pregnancy.

As many as 80 percent of mothers report feeling the baby-blues for a week or two following childbirth. Research published by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in 2020 asserts that postpartum depression affects 1 in 8 American women.

Self-care and support from family and friends can go a long way to help make welcoming a new baby a sweet milestone in your life. But what about postnatal vitamins?

Recent research points to the importance of omega-3 fatty acids in reducing depressive symptoms in the postpartum period. In fact, similar studies have confirmed the importance of DHA and EPA (two specific types of omega-3s) in pregnancy — not just for baby’s development but to prevent postpartum depression after birth.

Likewise, vitamin D deficiency may contribute to postpartum mood disorders. Researchers found that a daily dosage of 2000 IU may help stave off postpartum depressive symptoms. Have your doctor check your vitamin D levels so you supplement appropriately.

Some studies have proposed a link between low levels of folate, zinc, selenium, and B12 with perinatal depression, but so far, results have been inconclusive.

It’s safe to bet, however, that you’ll feel better if you’re getting your daily recommended dosage of nutrients, and feeling better almost always leads to better mental health.

Popular postnatal vitamins for mental health

Healthline

Wondering about the difference between prenatal versus postnatal vitamins?

While there’s no harm in just finishing off the bottle of prenatal supplements (why waste?), postnatal supplements are typically built to include higher amounts of vitamins A, C, D, K and minerals such as calcium and magnesium. The higher levels ensure that there’s enough to go around: Both you and your baby get what you need.

“Most women can plan to take the same prenatal vitamin, but should ask their obstetrician if they’re at any specific risks for deficiencies based on their medical history, diet, and lifestyle,” says Dr. Christie M. Cobb, an OB-GYN in Little Rock, Arkansas

If you choose to stay with your prenatal supplements, be sure to check that the daily dosage of choline is up to par. “The WHO recommends increasing choline intake to 550 mg daily during lactation,” she says.

The first step to raising a healthy child is maintaining a healthy mom. Especially for breastfeeding mothers, making sure you’re functioning at your best will ensure your baby is getting what they need to thrive.

Choose a postnatal vitamin that includes a wide range of vitamins, minerals, and other important nutrients including DHA, choline, iron, zinc, folate, B12, and vitamin D.

Remember that you may need to take separate supplements depending on what’s included in your postnatal vitamin, so be sure to review your bottle’s ingredient list.

Whichever postnatal supplement you choose, make sure it’s a high-quality brand. Your health, hair, and happiness will all benefit.