Breast milk is the best nutrition for newborn babies. World Health Organisation and all leading health advisories recommend exclusive breast milk for at least the first six months of a baby's life. Breast milk is the baby's first food that promotes growth and development. It has all the nutrients that a baby needs to thrive - complete food. Breast milk is crucial for building immunity, brain development and healthy growth. Other advantages are easy to access, no worries regarding cleanliness or temperature checks - a ready to consume, hassle-free meal.
Lactating mothers also need a healthy diet to maintain their health and to feed their baby easily. Each nutrient contributes to making this a happy and comfortable phase of your life.
Diet Tips For Lactating Mothers
The body spends a lot of energy in milk production, so the demand for calories remains at an additional 300-350 Kcal/ day. Choose whole grains to fuel your body, they are nutrient-rich and add healthy calories. Fruits, dairy, healthy fats from vegetable oils and nuts & seeds are other good choices to make for providing the energy needs. Avoid excess simple sugars from juices, sugary drinks and sweets.
Help fuel milk production. In addition, they also help your body recover from the stress of delivering the baby. Good protein choices include dairy, eggs, chicken, meat, legumes and seafood low in mercury. Grains like quinoa and amaranth are also good protein sources.
Fats And Oils
Other than being concentrated sources of energy, oils also add flavour to our food. In addition to fueling the baby's growth, healthy oils also help in the development of the brain and nervous system.
Vitamins And Minerals
Mothers who consume adequate amounts of micronutrients, pass on adequate amounts to the child. If the mother is deficient in a vitamin or mineral her baby's growth can be hampered. Vitamin B12 is needed for supporting brain development and healthy production of red blood cells - non-vegetarian food is a good source of B12. A vegetarian mother may consider a supplement under the guidance of their doctor. Iodine is a critical mineral during pregnancy and lactation. A mother deficient in Iodine may not be able to provide adequate nutrition for the child's cognitive and psychomotor development. Iodized salt is the easiest way to include iodine in your food along with milk, seafood, and eggs. Calcium and folic acid are also needed in adequate quantity.
Some common concerns of lactating mothers are:
1. Weight Gain: Breastfeeding is the best way to lose weight. Breast milk production needs lots of calories, consuming adequate calories from nutrient-rich sources will help you remain energized and lose the extra weight as well. Calorie restriction may lead to reduced milk production and poor quality of nutrient intake that can affect your and your child's health adversely.
2. How much fluid is needed? Hydration is of paramount importance for our body to work. Drink adequate water and calorie-free fluids, about 35-45 mls/ kg body weight, keep a check on the colour of your urine, if it is dark, drink more water. Taking water or fluid before feeding helps in milk production.
3. Do the foods a mother eats affect the baby: Everything the mother consumes may pass on to the baby. Certain foods may cause colicky pain in the child or the child may also break out into a rash, if you are able to identify these triggers avoid the same.
Foods to avoid:
1. Alcohol in breast milk isn't safe for your baby. Avoid alcohol till you are nursing your baby. Alcohol causes babies to have a lack of energy and a host of other health issues.
2. Caffeine: Excessive intake of caffeine in the form of 4-10 cups of coffee or tea, soft drinks, energy drinks, chocolates can cause irritability and sleep disturbances in the baby. 1-2 cups/day is safe to have.
3. Mercury: Mercury may enter a mother's diet from fish can be very dangerous. Be sure of the source of fish or avoid it altogether.
Adequate milk production is also a concern for some mothers. Certain foods are a rich source of compounds called galactagogues, which help induce, maintain, and increase milk production in humans. Foods that have been found to contain Galactagogues include:
- Fenugreek- methi
- Fennel & anise: Saunf and moti saunf
- Herbs like Shatavari
In addition, certain herbs and spices that have been used traditionally and are recommended by Ayurveda that help increase milk production include:
Ginger powder, cardamom, and saffron.
Choosing a variety of food will help with changing the flavour of your milk, which means when the baby is ready for weaning foods it will be easier. Variety will also ensure that you get the maximum nutrients into your meal. Feeding your baby is also a very emotionally satisfying moment for both the mother and child, enjoy it.
Stay safe, Stay healthy!
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About Rupali DattaRupali Datta is a Clinical Nutritionist and has worked in leading corporate hospitals. She has created and lead teams of professionals to deliver clinical solutions for patients across all medical specialties including critical care. She is a member of the Indian Dietetic Association and Indian Association of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition.