Understanding Changing Nutritional Needs During Postpartum
During pregnancy, women are constantly reminded of heightened nutritional needs related to supporting the health and wellness of both mother and baby. But what many women don’t realize is that during the postpartum period, especially if breastfeeding, a woman may still need to prioritize certain nutrients. The nutritional intake is important to ensure that breast milk contains sufficient nutrients to help keep a baby healthy and well-nourished. Which supplements are best for a breastfeeding woman to incorporate into a daily routine?
Iron for low energy and anemia
Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutritional imbalances discovered in individuals around the world. But especially for women, the risk of having low iron is higher because of menstruation. If a woman was diagnosed with an iron deficiency during pregnancy, the likelihood is higher that the condition can continue through the postpartum and breastfeeding period. Studies show recommend that lactating women should consume 10mg a day. However, iron can also be found naturally in foods such as red meat, organ meat, and shellfish.
DHA for baby’s health
Most women who were pregnant will remember DHA as an essential ingredient recommended for prenatal vitamins. Formally known as docosahexaenoic acid, DHA is an important omega-3 nutrient that’s directly linked with aiding in developing a baby’s brain, nervous system, and eyes. Breastfeeding mothers should continue to prioritize DHA intake, especially since the nutrient isn’t naturally made in the body. While DHA can be found in fatty fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel, and tuna, supplements are also an option. Experts recommend choosing a supplement that contains anywhere from 250-375mg of DHA along with EPA.
Fenugreek for milk supply
Although the process is often touted as easy, breastfeeding can be difficult. And the experience can be made even more stressful if a woman is struggling with milk supply. Fenugreek is a naturally occurring herb that has been proven to improve milk supply. Several studies have been conducted on the plant’s use in lactating women, with evidence pointing to the fact that the herb can be a gamechanger for women struggling with milk supply. Although fenugreek is available as a pill form supplement, women can also opt to consume the plant as part of a tea or in lactation cookies or smoothies.
Vitamin D for strong bones
Along with boosting immunity, vitamin D is also linked with bone health for both adults and children. The vitamin aids the body in absorbing calcium. Many people, including women, are naturally vitamin D deficient. Physicians typically recommend women who are breastfeeding get at least 600IU of vitamin D per day, the amount doesn’t translate to babies getting enough of the vitamin. A recent study showed that women who consumed at least 6,400IU were able to fully supply a baby’s vitamin D requirements through breastmilk.
Prioritizing nutrition while breastfeeding
Because a breastfeeding woman is supporting two people’s health needs, proper nutrition needs to be a priority. Most women can supply key health needs through a healthy diet full of nutrient-rich foods. But in the event of a deficiency or a restrictive diet that might limit food groups, supplements can be a great way to close the gaps. Lactating women that are concerned about nutritional needs should speak with a physician.