Many doctors recommend that breastfeeding mothers continue to take a prenatal supplement. In theory, if you eat a well-balanced diet, you should be able to get all the nutrients your body needs. In reality, however; it can be hard to be sure you are eating enough of the right foods each and every day. By taking a supplement designed specifically for nursing mothers, you can be sure that you are getting the most important nutrients to help your body stay healthy and produce plenty of high-quality milk for your baby.
When selecting a supplement, there are some things you should consider. Of course you will want to make sure you choose a natural supplement with no artificial colors or flavors. Check the ingredients carefully, some nutrients are of special importance when breastfeeding. At the very least, your nursing supplement should contain:
Vitamin D supports the growth of teeth and bones. Insufficient levels of Vitamin D can lead to rickets, a condition which is marked by weak bones, poor bone development, and bowed legs. Although Vitamin D can be found in foods like milk, fish, shellfish, and egg yolks you can also get Vitamin D from sunlight. If you live in northern climates or other places where there is not much sunlight, or if you tend to spend most of your day indoors, you and your baby may not be getting enough Vitamin D. Babies with darker skin are also at risk as they need more time in the sun to get the same benefits. Breast milk is not high in Vitamin D, so if you are exclusively breastfeeding, a supplement with Vitamin D could be beneficial.
Although babies typically have enough stored iron to last through their sixth month, iron is still an important supplement for mom. One in five women suffer from anemia – iron deficiency. If you are feeling tired and run down, you may not be getting enough iron. This is especially likely if you are vegan, vegetarian, or just don’t eat much meat. Iron helps carry oxygen to the blood. If you’re blood is not getting enough oxygen, you are likely to feel tired and apathetic. You may have trouble concentrating and have a short attention span – none of which is helpful to a new mom! Be sure you are getting at least 10 mg of iron daily.
Folic Acid (Vitamin B9)
Folic acid was important during pregnancy to help prevent spina bifida and other neural birth defects. Folic Acid continues to be an important nutrient not only for breastfeeding mothers, but for all women. Folic acid helps your body to make new cells and to synthesize DNA. It may also reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Even though folic acid can be found in a variety of foods such as beans, leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, and grains, studies show that 2/3 of women do not get the recommended 400 mcg a day of folic acid.
You and your baby need calcium to keep your bones strong and healthy. It is recommended that a breastfeeding mother get about 1,000 mg of calcium a day – that is about 4 servings of dairy products. Since calcium is fairly bulky, you generally cannot get enough in a multivitamin. You can however, make sure you are getting all of your calcium needs met by taking a calcium supplement with your everyday nursing supplement.
Omega 3 (DHA)
Omega 3 fatty acids, specifically DHA, are essential for brain, eye, and heart growth and development. Omega 3 fatty acids can increase intellectual development in babies and young children, improving memory, learning ability, and attention span. Omega 3 fatty acids come from oily fish. Women who do not eat much seafood, or who are concerned about mercury and other toxins frequently found in fish should consider supplementing. Be sure your supplement includes DHA.