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Nursing Nutrients: Nutrients that are Important in the Postpartum for Both Mother and Baby


Vitamin B6 actively participates in the metabolism of carbohydrates, lipids, amino acids, and nucleic acids. In addition, it plays a role in cellular signaling. In its active form, PLP, it serves as a cofactor for roughly 160 bodily functions. It plays an important role in reducing inflammation in the body, supports metabolic processes, boosts immunity, and helps support nervous system functionality.

Vitamin B9 is associated with immune system function, specifically maintaining innate immunity. It supports maintaining normal physiological processes in the body such as memory retention, and energy levels. In pregnancy, it assists in the growth of tissues. Vitamin B9 plays the biggest role during the first trimester when fetal and maternal tissue growth is at its peak.

Vitamin B12 is a cofactor for enzymes involved in the synthesis process of DNA, fatty acids, and myelin.

For lactation, B vitamins play a monumental role in the creation of breastmilk as well as the neurodevelopment of the infant. When deficient in these vitamins, breastmilk supply can dwindle and the lactating parent can experience anemia.

Vitamin B6 Daily Quantity during Lactation: 2mg

Vitamin B9 Daily Quantity during Lactation: 500mcg

Vitamin B12 Daily Quantity during Lactation: 2.8mcg

Foods High in B Vitamins:

  • Beef

  • Milk

  • Cheese

  • Sardines

  • Clams

  • Liver

  • Spinach

  • Liver

  • Kale

  • Asparagus

  • Brussels sprouts

  • Beans/legumes

  • Salmon

  • Chicken

  • Cottage cheese

  • Nuts

  • Tuna

  • Chickpeas


Choline plays a pivotal role in cognitive development, metabolism, and liver function. In addition, it helps with the regulation of homocysteine metabolism. It is a necessary micronutrient for memory, mood stabilization, muscle control, and DNA synthesis. The body’s cells require choline to form the membrane that surrounds them.

For lactation, choline levels in the body allow choline to be passed through the milk and to the newborn. Choline is a vital nutrient for the newborn’s neurocognitive development before and after birth with lasting effects into childhood. Proper levels of choline in the body during lactation have been known to help with the reduction of inflammation in the postpartum period.

Choline Daily Quantity during Lactation: 550mg

Foods High in Choline:

  • Cod fish

  • Eggs

  • Potatoes

  • Beans

  • Peas

  • Chicken

  • Tuna

  • Beef

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

These essential fatty acids are only able to be consumed through food sources. They are vital for brain and eye development and function. In addition, omega-3 fatty acids have been known to provide the body with support from depression symptoms, can support blood pressure, reduce triglycerides, and can slow plaque development in the arteries.

A study performed at the University of Oslo in Norway concluded that increased intake of DHA during pregnancy and lactation resulted in better mental processing scores in their offspring at 4 years of age (Helland, et al., 2003).

Omega-3 Fatty Acids Daily Quantity during Lactation: 500mg - 1000mg

Foods High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids:

  • Cod liver oil

  • Oysters

  • Flaxseeds

  • Soybeans

  • Walnuts

  • Mackerel

Vitamin A

There are three active forms of vitamin A (retinal, retinol, and retinoic acid). They are not synthesized by the body and must be consumed through diet. Vitamin A influences the processes of morphogenesis, gene activity, and serum retinol levels.

For lactation, vitamin A and its antioxidant properties help support the growing immune system of the newborn through the consumption of breast milk.

Daily Quantity during Lactation: 1200mg (Before supplementing, talk with your provider because vitamin A can be harmful when over-supplemented).

Foods High in Vitamin A:

  • Milk

  • Cheese

  • Pumpkin

  • Papaya

  • Mango

  • Liver

  • Fish Oil

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that contributes to bone health, absorption and retention of calcium and phosphorus, and can reduce the inflammatory response in the body.

Newborns need vitamin D to assist in absorbing calcium and phosphorus in their bodies. A deficiency of vitamin D in newborns can cause rickets, a softening, and weakening of bones.

Daily Quantity during Lactation: 10,000 IU

If this quantity is consumed orally by the lactating parent, then supplementation for the baby is not necessary. In quantities less than 10,000IU, orally supplementing the infant with 400 IU of liquid vitamin D is recommended.

Food High in Vitamin D:

  • Salmon

  • Tuna

  • Egg yolks

  • Liver

  • Sardines

  • Mushrooms


Iodine is essential for the biosynthesis of thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones are responsible for regulating growth and development as well as metabolism.

Iodine is an essential nutrient for newborns and is necessary for the composition of breast milk.

Daily Quantity during Lactation: 150μg

Foods High in Iodine:

  • Cheese

  • Oysters

  • Eggs

  • Chicken

  • Tuna

  • Liver

  • Seaweed



Allen, L. H. (2012). B Vitamins in Breast Milk: Relative Importance of Maternal Status and Intake, and Effects on Infant Status and function. Advances in Nutrition, 3(3), 362–369.

Azizi, F., & Smyth, P. P. A. (2009). Breastfeeding and maternal and infant iodine nutrition. Clinical Endocrinology, 70(5), 803–809.

Helland, I. B., Smith, L., Saarem, K., Saugstad, O. D., & Drevon, C. A. (2003). Maternal Supplementation With Very-Long-Chain n-3 Fatty Acids During Pregnancy and Lactation Augments Children’s IQ at 4 Years of Age. Pediatrics, 111(1), e39–e44.

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