During pregnancy and while nursing, mama’s nutrition is especially important because she is not only nourishing herself, but she is responsible for the health and nourishment of her baby as well! Consuming a nutrient rich diet is the first step to ensure that mom is getting all the required vitamins and minerals but adding a few supplements can be helpful. I usually don’t recommend taking multivitamins or supplements if you are generally healthy but during pregnancy and while nursing, supplements are very beneficial.
During pregnancy and while nursing, try to consume:
- Protein from high quality sources such as Organic, pasture-raised poultry and eggs, Organic 100% grass-fed beef, and wild caught, low mercury containing seafood.
- Fruits & Veggies Galore: All vegetables are packed with nutrition but during pregnancy, green veggies are especially important as they contain folate which is super important for fetal growth, and helps prevent neural tube defects. Veggies also help prevent the dreaded constipation that can sometimes occur during pregnancy, and are great for making sure moms are getting enough vitamins. Fruits will not contain as much folate but they are also a great source of vitamins, minerals and fiber! They also help increase your water intake which is super important during pregnancy. Dehydration can lead to painful Braxton Hicks contractions which are never fun! Staying properly hydrated also reduces the chances of getting stretch marks! An easy way to incorporate lots of fruits and veggies is to make a smoothie containing both to add to your breakfast. Be sure to buy Organic!
- Fats, Fats & More Fats: Fats are always an important component of our diet but they are especially crucial during pregnancy and while nursing! Fats are absolutely vital for baby’s brain development, organ and tissue growth, and good milk production for mom. Foods like organic meat, raw cheese, raw or cultured butter, organic raw whole milk, coconut oil, olive oil, avocados/ avocado oil, and nuts/seeds are especially good during pregnancy and while nursing. Don’t skimp on the fats!!
- Other nutrient dense foods like homemade bone broths, soups, fermented vegetables like sauerkraut, and kefir are also great.
**Side Note- just because I didn’t mention anything in particular about carbs doesn’t mean they are not important! We still need about half of our daily intake to be coming from carbs. Try to get in those sprouted whole grains for increased B vitamins, iron and fiber!
Supplements Recommended During Pregnancy
Even with a balanced, nutrient rich diet, it can sometimes be difficult to consume enough of the necessary nutrients for pregnancy. Adding supplements can act as an insurance policy to make sure you and your baby are getting all that you need!
As I said before, I don’t think it is necessary to take a multivitamin all the time but I do recommend adding a Prenatal Multivitamin to your medicine cabinet while pregnant and nursing. It’s important to take a food based multivitamin from a verifiable source with no additives. I take Garden of Life Raw Prenatal . All of their ingredients come from natural sources and it also contains natural folate as opposed to folic acid. Folate is super important to take before and during pregnancy. Many doctors will prescribe a supplement with folic acid, however there are critical differences between the synthetic form of folate (folic acid) and natural folate itself. If you don’t choose the multivitamin I take, I recommend taking a prenatal multivitamin containing 800mg of natural folate per day.
Fermented Cod Liver Oil
We all need this superfood as it is one of the best sources of omega 3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) and contains relatively high amounts of vitamin A and vitamin D. Cod liver oil also boosts our immunity, works as an anti-inflammatory in our body, and improves our overall health! It protects against bone loss, cancer, depression, diabetic complications, heart disease, chronic pain, and so much more! DHA is especially important during pregnancy because it plays a huge role in baby’s brain development. DHA is found throughout the body, but is most abundant in the brain, eyes and heart. In fact, DHA represents about 97% of all omega-3 fats in the brain and 93% of all omega-3 fats in the retina of the eye. DHA accumulates both prenatally and postnatally in the infant brain, eye and nervous system tissue. Developing infants cannot efficiently produce their own DHA and must obtain this vital nutrient through the placenta during pregnancy and from breastmilk following birth. Increasing DHA in the diet during pregnancy and nursing significantly enhances the level of DHA available to the baby. Certain studies have shown that supplementation of DHA in the mother’s diet improves infant developmental outcomes, such as:
- eye-hand coordination
- motor skills
- attention span
DHA has also been shown to play a part in maternal well-being. Studies show that supplementation of DHA in the mother’s diet can increase the length of pregnancy by six days helping mothers carry to full term. I prefer this Green Pasture brand.
I take magnesium all the time, but it is especially helpful in pregnancy. Severe magnesium deficiency can lead to poor fetal grown, preeclampsia, or even fetal death. Adequate magnesium levels also help mom’s tissue growth and recovery during pregnancy and may help baby receive more nutrition through the placenta. Magnesium also promotes normal bowel movements, as long as you don’t take too much! You can use use topical magnesium oil, take an ionic supplement in water, or use magnesium citrate in powder form (too much of this can cause loose stools). Do not exceed 500 mg per day from all sources including food.
I have always been a huge fan of probiotics. During pregnancy, probiotics are extra important. Probiotics help pregnant mamas stay healthy when their immune system is suppressed. They also help ward off constipation and can even reduce the risk of Group B Strep (I recommend doubling your probiotic intake 2-3 weeks before your Group B strep test). My personal brand of choice is Biokult Advanced Probiotics. During the birth process, babies obtain their healthy gut bacteria when passing through the birth canal and continue to culture bacteria months afterwards through nursing. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case during cesarean deliveries. The baby will miss out on all that good bacteria, so it is especially important for mom to continue taking her probiotics and even give the baby some directly. There has been evidence linking the lack of healthy bacteria from the birth canal to a lower immune system and food allergies later in life. I recommend Klaire Labs Infant Formula Probiotic to ensure that your baby is getting a good dose of beneficial bacteria that he/she missed out on during birth. I mix 1/4 tsp of the probiotic with a tiny bit of breastmilk and give it to my babe via syringe every morning. More studies are emerging showing the importance of gut health on lifelong health.
There is lots of research revealing that vitamin D is super helpful during pregnancy. Research shows that it can help reduce the risk of many pregnancy related complications including gestational diabetes. Vitamin D plays a role in baby’s bone and hormone development. Taking vitamin D at any stage of life helps support immunity and keeps sickness at bay. Some pediatricians recommend giving exclusively breastfed babies vitamin D drops directly. I personally don’t do this as there have been studies showing that supplementation can be harmful if given to the baby directly. The primary source of vitamin D for babies, other than sunlight, is the stores that were laid down in baby’s body prior to birth. Because mom’s vitamin D status during pregnancy directly affects baby’s vitamin D stores at birth and particularly during the first 2-3 months, it is very helpful for pregnant and nursing women to make sure they are getting enough vitamin D.
Adding a vitamin D supplement to mom’s diet and/or increasing exposure to sunlight will increase the amount of vitamin D in her breastmilk. As long as mom is vitamin D sufficient, her breastmilk will have the right amount of vitamin D for her baby. I take Thorne Research’s vitamin D3 with vitamin K2 as this increases absorption, and I try to be in the sun for at least 20 minutes per day. Combined with your prenatal multivitamin, aim for a total of 4,000-6,000 IU of vitamin D per day while pregnant and breastfeeding. This will safely supply your breastmilk with adequate vitamin D so you can avoid supplementing your babe directly.
Written by Kayla Rillie, RD
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