Most pregnant women know that it is very important to consume the right amount of vitamins and minerals before and during pregnancy. In this article, I will show you that it is also critical that you take certain supplements following the birth of your baby, especially if you choose to breastfeed.
Numerous studies have found that transient bone loss occurs during breastfeeding but this is rapidly regained following weaning. For women who are breastfeeding, as well as for those who are not, the recommended daily allowance of calcium is 1000 mg/day. Some high calcium foods include:
- Milk (1 cup = 300 mg of calcium)
- Fortified soy milk (1 cup = 200 – 400 mg of calcium)
- Yoghurt (1 cup = 450 mg of calcium)
- Swiss or Gruyere cheese (1 ounce = 270 mg of calcium)
- Sesame seeds (1 ounce = 280 mg of calcium)3
- Sardines (3 ounces = 325 mg)
If you feel as if you are not taking in enough calcium through your diet, consider taking a calcium supplement. The least costly form of calcium is calcium carbonate (found supplements such as Calcium Soft Chews, Caltrate®, Os-Cal®, Tums®, and Viactiv®). Another form of calcium is calcium citrate (such as Citracal®) but this can be more expensive and requires more tablets to achieve the optimal dosage. Taking vitamin D and magnesium with your calcium supplement will help to facilitate better calcium absorption and metabolism.
In the postpartum period, iron requirements return to pre-pregnancy levels – around 15 mg/day. However, there are special circumstances for the which the iron requirement may be higher, including excessive blood loss during vaginal delivery or when the interval between pregnancies is less than two years. Good sources of iron include:
- Fortified cereals
- Beef liver and lean beef
Make sure you don’t consume iron-rich foods with foods that inhibit iron absorption, such as legumes, whole grain cereals, tea, and coffee. For optimal iron absorption, eat foods at the same time that contain high amounts of vitamin C.
Omega-3 fatty acids
One of the most beneficial omega-3 fatty acids is docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). DHA helps to make breast milk and supports the development of your baby’s eyes, brain and central nervous system. The American Pregnancy Association recommends supplementing with 300 mg daily.
Vitamin A helps to maintain healthy skin, teeth, soft tissue and bone and also promotes good vision. Following birth, your need for vitamin A increases to 1300 mg/day and women who are breastfeeding are at risk of being deficient in this vitamin as it passes through breast milk. Foods that are high in vitamin A include:
- Vegetables (in particular carrots, but also dark leafy greens, sweet potatoes and bell peppers)
- Meat (in particular liver)
- Fruit (cantaloupe, dried apricots)
If you feel you are not getting adequate amounts of vitamin A from your diet, consider taking a supplement.
Pregnancy can affect how your body absorbs zinc and so new mothers often lack this essential trace mineral. A study conducted by the Australian Maternal and Child Health Service found that new mothers who were ingesting adequate levels of zinc had improved energy levels and their babies had fewer incidences of colic and less severe colic, compared with mothers who did not have an adequate zinc intake.6 If you are breast feeding, try to consume at least 18 mg/day of zinc, either in supplement form or through a diet of eggs, meat, whole flour or oats.