Recommended Vitamins for Breastfeeding Mums
Author: Jillian Foster
The time following the birth of your baby can be exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. Your body goes through many changes as different hormones flood your body to help you recover from labour and initiate milk supply for breastfeeding. It’s also a time of great change and adjustment as you manage your new life as a mother with not only physical changes but emotional changes too.
We all know about necessary nutrients during pregnancy but there are also some key nutrients and herbs that can help support you during breastfeeding and as your body adapts post-birth. Not only do you need sufficient levels of nutrients to pass onto your fast developing baby, but you also need to ensure that you do not become depleted too. Let’s have a look at the top vitamins for breastfeeding mothers and our favourite post-partum herbs too.
More specifically the omega 3 essential fatty acid DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). DHA is a component of omega 3 and is particularly important during pregnancy and in breastfeeding. Breastmilk is naturally rich in DHA and supports the rapidly growing baby’s brain and nervous system. This means it is vital that a breastfeeding mother gets enough DHA so that she can continue to support this important growth and development.
B vitamins are water soluble vitamins which means the body does not store them as easily as some other vitamins. You therefore need to receive adequate amounts daily to ensure you do not become deficient. Whilst all the B vitamins work together to help each other with various processes in the body, there are some specific B vitamins that are crucial breastfeeding vitamins. Vitamin B12 is needed to support brain development and the production of red blood cells, your baby will receive this through your breastmilk, and if you are deficient your baby may also become deficient. Vitamin B6 helps the body make neurotransmitters, is needed for normal brain development and function and is also involved in the production of certain hormones that influence our mood and sleep. This one is especially good for new mothers as mood and sleep can be greatly affected.
The role of a new mother brings with it lack of sleep, stress and hormonal changes, all which can cause you to drain your magnesium stores quickly. Magnesium can be beneficial in soothing muscular aches and pains, balancing hormones, and supporting the body during stress. Magnesium is also recommended for vasospasm of the nipples that can occur frequently in breastfeeding.
The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommend that all breastfeeding mothers take a supplement containing 150mcg of iodine per day. Australians in general are not getting enough iodine through their diet and a deficiency can lead to various disorders that affect the brain and nervous system. During pregnancy the thyroid gland, which stores iodine, becomes more active leading to an increased need of iodine by pregnant women. A breastfed infant relies solely on breastmilk as its source of iodine.
Not technically a vitamin but a hormone that is produced by the body when skin is exposed to sunlight. Although we live in a sunny country, Australians along with many other people all over the world are tending to be deficient in vitamin D. Vitamin D is not easily transferred through breastmilk. A breastfeeding mother needs to be supplementing with vitamin D to give her baby enough vitamin D through their milk. Before you start supplementing with vitamin D, speak to your doctor about the appropriate dose of vitamin D for you and your baby.
The human microbiome is gaining more and more attention as research uncovers how important it is to our health. There are some specific strains of probiotics that have been shown to reduce the incidence of eczema when taken in pregnancy and breastfeeding, namely Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG). Three other strains – Lactobacillus fermentum; Lactobacillus salivarus and Lactobacillus gasseri – have been used to reduce the occurrence of mastitis as well as reducing symptoms associated with the condition. All three of those probiotic strains are found naturally in breastmilk.
This wonderful adaptogenic herb can help support a new mum as she navigates through the exhaustive time of recovering post-birth and adjusting to caring for her baby. Withania helps support the nervous system, helps you adapt to stress, can help improve memory and concentration and also has the added benefit of naturally boosting iron.
Although mostly used in pregnancy, red raspberry leaf also has benefits post-partum. It is known to help increase milk supply; it can help tone the uterus post birth due to its effect on the uterine muscle and has also been reported to decrease postpartum bleeding. Raspberry leaf makes an ideal lactation supplement and is best taken as a tea.
Fenugreek has a long history for its use in increasing milk production and improving lactation, making it a very popular breastfeeding supplement. It also is used to help digestion and can be beneficial for both mother and baby in reducing common gastrointestinal symptoms.
One of our most nutritious herbs as it is high in vitamins A, C, K, calcium, potassium and iron. This one is a lovely all round tonic for restoration post-birth and support during breastfeeding, like a natural breastfeeding multivitamin. It is commonly taken as a tea.
It’s important for breastfeeding mothers to maintain a good diet high in fresh fruit, vegetables, healthy fats, fish, wholegrains and small amounts of red meat. If you choose to exclude any of these foods then you need to ensure you are getting the missing nutrients elsewhere. Staying hydrated is also very important, keep a bottle of water with you and sip throughout the day or drink a full glass of water each time you breastfeed as ways to keep you hydrated. Drinking herbal teas such as nettle and raspberry leaf will also aid hydration.
|Written by Jillian Foster|
Jillian (BHSc Naturopathy) is a qualified naturopath who believes through a healthy and balanced diet and lifestyle, we have the power to influence our health and the health of future generations. With a passion for herbal medicine, Jillian loves helping people find the right solution for their health needs and educating people on how they can lead a healthy and happy life.
Jillian enjoys keeping active with her two young children and baking them delicious and healthy treats.