Preconception is an important time, during which both prospective parents can prepare their bodies by ensuring good nutrition to assist fertility and conception. Once conception has occurred, then continuing with a high quality, nutrient dense diet and balanced lifestyle can support the health of both mother and baby.

Nutritional needs increase significantly during pregnancy to meet the demands of the growing baby and to allow for changes in your own body.

The government recommends supplementing with 400µg of folic acid for at least three months prior to conception and during the first trimester of pregnancy. The government also recommends supplementing with 10µg of vitamin D for three months preconception and during pregnancy.

We recommend that women take an all-round multivitamin and mineral along with omega-3 fatty acids during preconception, pregnancy and breastfeeding.

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Postnatal supplements are designed to help replace depleted nutrients and assist the body after birth, because let's face it, the body has been through a lot during pregnancy and labour! The fourth trimester is a journey of discovery and recovery, and if a new mother has decided to breastfeed their newborn baby, it is also a time when their body requires extra nutrients.   

Breastmilk is an ever-changing medium, providing differing levels of nutrients to support a baby's needs at various stages of growth. The quality of breastmilk will depend upon both dietary intake and the body's nutrient reserves. Dietary intake of some nutrients, such as the B Vitamins and choline will directly impact the levels in breastmilk so it's very important to have a regular intake throughout pregnancy. On the other hand, some nutrient concentrations in breastmilk are resilient to changes in the mother's intake, such as vitamin D, calcium, iron, copper and zinc.  

Supplying a growing baby will use nutrients from the mother's own stores, so it is very important that they are replenishing these to help maintain their own health as well as nurturing their baby's healthy development. Our uniquely formulated, bioeffective breastfeeding supplements are designed to provide the very best support during the fourth trimester. 

Why are omega-3 fatty acids important during pregnancy and breastfeeding?

Omega-3 intake during pregnancy and breastfeeding is important for a baby's brain development for the first two years of their life. During the baby's first 6 months, the brain, which only accounts for 8% of body weight, accumulates almost the same amount of the omega-3 fatty acid, DHA, as the entire rest of the body!  DHA has important roles for the health of both mother and baby, and increasing evidence shows that infants fed breastmilk with a higher DHA content have better vision and neurodevelopmental outcomes. The levels of omega-3 in breastmilk are largely determined by maternal levels and influenced by dietary intake, so ensuring excellent levels through diet should be a priority. DHA can be obtained through eating oily fish, but due to the risk of toxicity and heavy metal accumulation in fish, or personal dietary preference, some may prefer a supplement providing great levels of DHA, such as those from marine algae which are suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

Do I need to take a probiotic whilst breastfeeding?

In the first year, a baby's microbiome requires a high proportion of bifidobacteria strains to help with the digestion of milk - and breastmilk harbours a diverse microbiota, plus nutrients that encourage the proliferation of health promoting bacteria. It is estimated that 25-30% of a baby's gut bacteria will originate from breastmilk, so a probiotic supplement could help to support a healthy microbiome for both mother and baby.

How is nutrition for breastfeeding mothers different?

A new mother doesn't need to eat anything special whilst breastfeeding, however a varied and nutrient-dense diet is recommended to ensure an optimal intake of all the essential nutrients. 

A healthy diet includes:

  • At least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables each day - more if possible!
  • Starchy foods including pasta, bread, rice and potatoes
  • Plenty of fibre. Following birth some women experience bowel problems such as constipation, so plenty of fibre from wholemeal bread and pasta, rice and other grains, pulses such as beans and lentils, as well as fruit and vegetables is recommended
  • Protein such as lean meat and chicken, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds and pulses. The NHS advises that no more than two portions of fish a week is consumed whilst breastfeeding, including one portion of oily fish (mackerel, sardines, trout, salmon). A portion is around 140 grams
  • Dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yoghurt (as well as non-dairy alternatives) contain calcium and are also a source of protein
  • Plenty of water - always have a glass of water to hand when settling down to breastfeed

Whilst breastfeeding it is recommended that caffeine intake is restricted to less than 200mg a day. Caffeine can reach the baby through breast milk, and as it is a stimulant, it could make the baby restless. Caffeine occurs naturally in lots of foods and drinks, including coffee, tea and chocolate.Try decaffeinated tea and coffee instead.

Which breastfeeding multivitamin do you recommend? 

Pregna-Plan is a comprehensive Wholefood multivitamin and mineral supplement, uniquely formulated for all stages of pregnancy and breastfeeding. Importantly, it provides the current UK government recommendations of folic acid and vitamin D.

Pregna-Plan provides a total of 25 different nutrients including vitamin D, calcium, iron, iodine and all eight of the B-complex vitamins. 

Maintaining good levels of iron is important for women whilst breastfeeding. It is essential for the newborn baby too as it is needed for the development of normal cognitive function. 

The calcium requirement of a breastfeeding mother is particularly high. Calcium is essential for the growth of the baby's bones and teeth. 

The mineral iodine is important during breastfeeding as it supports the baby's future neural development. 

Vitamin D supports many important functions within the body including the normal function of the immune system and the growth and development of bone in children. Vitamin D3 is the most bioavailable form of this nutrient and is the form provided in Pregna-Plan.

The role of the various B complex vitamins is vast and includes contributing to normal energy metabolism, nervous system function, psychological function, and the reduction of tiredness and fatigue to name just a few!

As a Wholefood supplement, Pregna-Plan contains Wholefood nutrients which are used by the body in the same way as food nutrients. Through replicating nature, we strive to provide the best, most natural, and most bioeffective supplements to support the optimal health of a new mother whilst on their breastfeeding journey. You can learn more about the Wholefood and Food State process here.

Pregna-Plan is suitable for vegetarians and vegans. Typically recommended at two tablets daily, one pot will provide a 30-day supply.

Should I take extra supplements whilst breastfeeding?
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You’ve spent the last nine months nourishing your body to prepare for a healthy birth and ensuring the optimal levels of nutrients to support the health of your growing baby, and now you have chosen to breastfeed, it is just as important to ensure you are getting great levels of nutrients to support both your and your baby’s health. Indeed, requirements of many micronutrients increase in breastfeeding when compared to pregnancy, which is unsurprising when you consider that your baby will double their birthweight in the first four to six months after birth.

How can I support post-natal recovery?
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In my previous “Ask the Expert” I have discussed the importance of adequate nutrition when breastfeeding, not only to nourish your baby but also to ensure your nutrient stores are replenished to support your own health and wellbeing. As such, a comprehensive prenatal supplement, or other suitable multivitamin and mineral formula, taken alongside a varied, nutrient-dense diet is recommended throughout breastfeeding.

What supplements could help with post-birth hair loss?
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Firstly, please let me assure you that postpartum hair loss is completely normal. During pregnancy, higher levels of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone prevent normal hair loss and promote growth – and many expectant mums find their hair to be thicker and healthier than ever. After the birth, these hormone levels drop and you may experience more hair loss than usual, which can last 6-12 months in some women.

Supporting your pregnancy
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