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Mamas-to-be and those hoping to conceive already know the benefits of taking prenatal vitamins before and during pregnancy. If you’ve given birth, however, you may wonder whether you should keep taking them and, if so, for how long. Because they typically contain higher doses of essential nutrients like folic acid, calcium and iron, prenatal vitamins can help to ensure your little one’s healthy development while he's nursing—and can help you feel better while you're recovering from childbirth.
Eating for Two—Still
The nutrients your baby receives during breastfeeding are a direct result of what you eat. According to the American Pregnancy Association, it is essential that newborns receive adequate levels of vitamins A, D, E and K, as well as water-soluble vitamins such as C, riboflavin and niacin. Depending on your diet, your physician or lactation consultant may recommend that you keep taking your prenatal vitamins as long as you breastfeed your baby.
I Am Iron Woman
The exhaustion that comes from giving birth, especially if you had significant blood loss during delivery, can leave you feeling not just tired, but weak. Because they contain higher levels of iron, prenatal vitamins can help you restore your iron levels to a more normal level to replenish your energy level and combat anemia, according to the California Pacific Medical Center. You can also talk to your doctor about taking just an iron supplement instead of a complete prenatal vitamin.
Taper the Takeout
As any new parent can tell you, the lack of sleep that accompanies newborn care can be brutal. Whether you’re breastfeeding or using formula, you’ll likely be up every few hours to feed your tot. This around-the-clock schedule leaves little time—and energy—for preparing meals that are chock full of nutrition. Instead, you may find yourself grazing on sugary snacks or eating takeout too often. Even if you’re not breastfeeding, prenatal supplements can help to fill in nutritional gaps, and can be taken up until six weeks after giving birth, according to the CPMC.
Don’t Forget the DHA
According to the APA, the essential Omega-3 fatty acid DHA significantly contributes to the healthy development of your child’s brain, eyes, and immune and nervous systems. This nutrient can affect your child’s behavior, learning ability and focus as he grows, so ensuring optimal levels is critical. Although DHA can be found in fish, both the FDA and the Environmental Protection Agency have recommended that both pregnant and nursing mothers avoid certain types of fish because they contain high levels of mercury or other contaminants, states the APA. Most prenatal vitamins do not include DHA, so your doctor may recommend a supplement, especially if you are breastfeeding.