Though the “fourth trimester” refers to the first three months after giving birth, did you know that the postpartum recovery period often takes a full year? Taking care of both yourself and your baby is a huge job—and it’s one you do while your body adjusts to the departure of your tiny human and placenta.
During this year, your hormones undergo another set of changes, such as pulses in prolactin for milk production and normalizing the relaxin that loosened all your ligaments for birthing. The demands of being a new parent—while often getting inadequate sleep—are also huge factors in how you feel physically and function cognitively (like your mood, concentration, processing and focus).
If you’re providing chest/breastmilk for your baby, the strains on your body are even greater since you’re the supplement for your baby. When a chest/breastfeeding parent’s diet is lacking (either in specific nutrients or just lacking altogether), it affects the nutrient content in chest/breastmilk. This is the reason why the recommended intake of many nutrients is actually slightly higher during chest/breastfeeding than in pregnancy!
In the same way you took a prenatal vitamin throughout your pregnancy, you’ll want to take a postnatal vitamin to cover off all your needed nutrients during the postpartum period. Here are the top ingredients to look for in a postpartum supplement:
Iron is used to make hemoglobin, the protein in your red blood cells that carries oxygen and delivers it around your body. This is why having low iron levels can make you feel so fatigued! Insufficient iron can cause low hemoglobin levels and iron-deficiency anemia. It can happen when dietary iron intake is low, or if you’ve had blood loss, like hemorrhaging during or after childbirth. Having low hemoglobin levels postpartum has even been associated with a greater risk of post-traumatic stress symptoms. For daily maintenance, it’s recommended that you get 10 to 30 mg of iron per day—if it upsets your stomach, try an easy-to-digest form like Ferrous Bisglycinate Chelate, which you can find 27 mg of in Bird&Be’s The Postpartum.
Folic Acid, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin B12 work together in the methylation cycle, a molecular process that turns the genes in your DNA on and off and affects the function of your neurotransmitters (those brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine that affect your mood).
Vitamin B12 is needed to make red blood cells and can affect your energy levels. Taking a postpartum supplement with a full spectrum of B Vitamins can support your energy and mood in addition to helping supply your baby through chest/breastmilk.
Vitamin C and E
Both Vitamin C and Vitamin E are major antioxidants that can reactivate each other, renewing each other’s antioxidant activities. Their intake tends to dip postpartum, so it’s important to ensure your supplement contains both, including about 100 mg of Vitamin C for postpartum immune support and 28 IU of Vitamin E while chest/breastfeeding.
Newborns have an increased need for Vitamin E after birth compared to in utero. The process of getting Vitamin E from maternal stores through the placenta isn’t very efficient, so it’s not uncommon for newborns to have lower reserves of Vitamin E. Vitamin E is especially needed in the first two months postpartum to help immune and lung system development.
The good news is that Vitamin E is easily transferred into chest/breastmilk, so it’s often recommended that chest/breastfeeding parents take a supplement for about six months postpartum to provide baby with adequate antioxidant support.
Vitamin D is often forgotten about after delivery but shouldn’t be overlooked, especially since it plays such a big role in immune function and mood. Postpartum Vitamin D supplementation has been shown to positively influence postpartum mood. It’s also critical that your baby get enough Vitamin D to ensure proper bone development and to prevent rickets (softening and bowing of bones, particularly in the legs).
Though you’ve likely heard that you can get this “sunshine vitamin” naturally, with proper sun safety for both you and your babe, it’s unlikely you’d get enough sun exposure to cover your Vitamin D needs. Plus, you could have a specific gene variant that prevents the conversion of sunlight into Vitamin D in your body. That’s why supplementing you and baby postpartum is often recommended at doses of 1000 IU daily for adults and 400 IU daily for infants.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an Omega-3 Fatty Acid that’s essential for the development of your newborn’s brain and nervous system. This is another nutrient that is transferred in chest/breastmilk, so a greater intake is needed to supply both yourself and your baby. Levels of DHA in chest/breastmilk have also been related to maternal attention and cognitive function postpartum. It’s recommended to get at least 100 mg DHA daily for the first year postpartum.
To give you one less thing to worry about when you’ve got a newborn on your hands, Bird&Be’s The Postpartum supplement includes 1,000 IU of Vitamin D and 300 mg of vegan DHA for baby’s brain development and your own brain function. It also includes Vitamin C and E for antioxidant support and is loaded with B Vitamins, including 1,000 mcg Vitamin B12 to provide all the energy support your body is craving.