We all know that being a new mom is a 24/7 job. You never stop! That’s why new mothers have no time to eat properly and are often exhausted from a bad night’s sleep. However, it’s important to take care of yourself, as well. The new labor load, exhaustion, and whirlwind of emotions may negatively reflect on your health.
In order to supplement your diet so you have the energy and strength to jump into baby-caring mode (especially if you’re breastfeeding), vitamins and minerals are key. Here’s a list of five natural health products for the new mom.
1. Folate (Folic Acid)
Once you started trying to conceive, your doctor may have prescribed folic acid. That’s because folate, a form of a water-soluble B vitamin, is crucial when protecting the baby against neural tube defects. But, what you probably didn’t know is that after birth as a new mom, folate continues to have a key role in your system.
Folate helps women’s bodies to produce cells and synthesize DNA, and it also protects you from heart diseases. Besides, it’s always important to have your body prepared in case you get pregnant again.
Folate is naturally found in foods like spinach, broccoli, oranges, and lentils. Still, most women don’t get a sufficient amount of folate through diet alone, which is why supplementation is so important.
All teen girls and women need 400 mcg of folate every day. However, during lactation, the amount increases to 500 mcg. According to Carol Haggans, a Dietitian and Scientific and Health Communications Consultant of the Office of Dietary Supplements, “Breastfeeding mothers need to have enough folate in their breast milk to support their growing baby”. If you aren’t getting enough folate every day, your stores will be depleted because your milk will use anything you do have to provide it to baby.
2. Vitamin B12
Attention vegetarian and vegan moms! Eggs, meat, and dairy are the main sources of vitamin B12. Therefore, Haggans says that if you don’t eat those foods, you may siffer from “a condition called pernicious anemia, that prevents you from absorbing vitamin B12. If you’ve had gastrointestinal surgery or a digestive disorder, a vitamin B12 supplement might be recommended.”
Vitamin B12 is essential for the new mom because it helps your body produce red blood cells and DNA. “It is also important to keep nerve cells healthy and to prevent a type of anemia called megaloblastic anemia,” says Haggans. Weakness, tiredness, and pale skin are some symptoms of low levels of B12 in the system.
In addition, B12-deficient breast milk is a very serious problem. To make sure babies are safe from the development of severe and permanent neurological damage, “it’s important for lactating women to get enough vitamin B12 so that their breast milk has sufficient levels of it,” adds Haggans. According to the dietitian, those mothers must take 2.8 mcg of the vitamin daily. Additionally, B12 deficiency (from malabsorption) can occur when mom has leaky gut, intestinal dysbiosis, low stomach acid, or autoimmune disease. Therefore, it’s important to address these issues to improve absorption.
If ignored, vitamin B12 deficiency may cause serious health concerns not only to the baby but to the mother as well. Vision problems, memory loss, and loss of physical coordination are just a few of them. Infertility and stomach cancer can also be developed by the lack of vitamin B12 in a woman’s body.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in five women suffer from anemia after birth, a serious condition that can have long-term health implications if not treated.
Once again, extra attention here if you’re vegetarian or vegan! Meat is one of the main sources of iron. Although there are other iron-rich foods like dark leaves, beans, dried fruits, and nuts such as almonds or cashews, iron form animal products is best absorbed. Coffee, tea, and dairy may also block absorption of iron so supplementation might be necessary during the postpartum period. Make sure you also get adequate vitamin C for best iron absorption.
Additionally, the Association of Reproductive Health Professional (ARHP) establishes that in the presence of low hemoglobin or anemia after delivery, a supplementation of 60 to 120 mg of iron is recommended. Always check with your healthcare provider about your personal needs.
4. Vitamin D
Even after delivery, your baby’s health still depends on yours. Besides physical health, you must stay mentally healthy to be able to provide the necessary care and love to your child. Since several studies directly associate low levels of vitamin D with postpartum depression, to protect yourself from mental distress after birth, you must get the necessary amount of this vitamin.
Vitamin D deficiency is a public-health problem, affecting more than a billion people worldwide. If you just gave birth, the risk of suffering from low vitamin D levels is even higher. Even though vitamin D is present in foods like fish and dairy and can be naturally absorbed by sun exposure, your doctor could recommend that as a new mother you get an extra dose of it, especially if you avoid contact with the sun. Skin pigmentation also reduces the vitamin D production, so dark-skin women should be especially careful.
Supplementation will protect you from developing serious health conditions, such as cardiovascular diseases, cognitive impairment and cancer. An adequate amount of vitamin D in breast milk is also important to support baby’s immune function, and teeth and bone growth. Therefore, even if you have good levels of this vitamin in your system, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that breastfed infants receive an extra supplementation to make up for less sun exposure.
It’s also important to consider that our bodies need a balance between Omega-3s and Omega-6s in order to avoid health problems such as cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, asthma, and cancer, among others. Since Omega-6s are found in a lot of different foods we usually consume, such as vegetable oils, chicken, and beef, unless you avoid those foods and eat fish regularly, you’re most likely in need of rebalancing your Omega-3s.
When it comes to the breast milk, there are controversies about the impact of those fatty acids on the baby’s nutrition. “Some studies show that omega-3s might improve brain and vision development in infants, but other studies show that they do not have any effects,” says Haggans. However, it’s well known that babies’ bodies work at a slower pace than adults so they cannot produce fatty acids as quickly as they need them, thus they need adequate amounts from breast milk.
Additionally, many healthcare professionals believe that the consumption of Omega-3s could lower the risk of mood swings and postpartum depression.
Omega-3s include different types of fatty acids, among them DHA, EPA, and ALA. And when it comes to supplementing their diets, Haggans recommends breastfeeding women take a 1.3 g dose of ALA daily, since this is the only fatty acid that the body can’t produce.
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Being Healthy As A New Mom
Before taking natural health products consult your healthcare provider about what your personal needs are. However, since our diet is depleted of nutritional value due to poor farming techniques, supplementation is a good way to get the adequate amount of essential vitamins and minerals our bodies need.
Larissa Piazzi is a journalist freelance lifestyle writer. Besides writing, she loves cooking and traveling.
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