Mother's diet during lactation
As you spend all your waking hours tending to your little ones, you might tend to ignore yourself. But, remember that your breast milk is dependent upon the quality of food and quantity of fluids you consume. This, in turn, will directly affect your baby's nourishment and well-being.
Hence, you need to follow a sensible diet, one that includes vital food elements, to keep you both healthy and well. The following are some pointers that help a moderately active mother to balance her diet well during lactation…
Understand energy and fats
While you are lactating, your energy requirements will increase to enable you to keep your strength up. All food groups provide energy, which is expressed in technical terms as kilocalories or what we commonly refer to as calories. You will actually need to consume at least 2400 to 2700 kcal everyday during first 6 months of lactation. At this time, the energy requirements of your body are higher as you will be exclusively breast-feeding your baby. However, in the latter 6 months, when you start weaning by introducing variety in your baby's diet, you will breast feed less frequently and so your energy requirement will decrease to 2250 to 2550 kcal every day.
Lactation draws on your energy resources and burns 3500 kcal per day. You will actually be burning more calories than you are consuming. How does this happen? In another of Nature’s miraculous processes, a new mother starts using up the reserves created during pregnancy, a natural way to lose the extra kilos gained during that time, provided you eat wisely.
Fat is a concentrated source of energy and 45 gm per day of it is required while you’re lactating. This moderate amount of fat is required to supplement your maternal stores to achieve optimal secretion of breast milk. However, if you overdo it and keep having too many ghee-rich laddoos, you might end up adding more kilos to your frame. So, exercise moderation.
Take care to supplement your food with wholesome foods, such as:
1. Cereals such as Wheat, Bajra, Jowar etc.
2. Dals and pulses such as moong dal, Matki, etc.
3. Dairy products like milk, Paneer and Curds
4. Fruits and vegetables.
Top up on proteins
While you are lactating, you will need to consume more proteins too. The requirement is approximately 75 gm per day during the first 6 months of lactation. As you supplement breast milk with weaning foods, your protein requirement should also decrease a little by 7 gm i.e., to about 68 gm per day.
Make the following protein-rich foods a part of your diet:
1. Dals such as moong dal, Toovar Dal, Masoor Dal etc.
2. Pulses like Rajma, Chawli, Moong etc
3. Dairy products like milk, paneer and curds
4. Nuts and oilseeds such as almonds and walnuts.
Replenish the vitamins and minerals
As your breast milk is the only source of nourishment for your little one in the initial months, your body will be continuously using up some of the most important minerals and vitamins, and these resources will require replenishment.
Vitamin A: You will need 3800 mcg of vitamin A (beta carotene) per day during the lactation period. Vitamin A is vital for immunity as well as glowing skin and clear vision, for both you and your little one.
Have plenty of:
1. Dark green leafy vegetables such as amaranth, Spinach, Fenugreek etc. and other vegetables like Broccoli.
2. Yellow, Orange fruits and vegetables like Carrots, Pumpkin, tomatoes, Papaya etc.
3. Dairy products like milk and curds.
Vitamin C: This is one of the most important nutrients, keeping colds and coughs at bay by strengthening the immunities of both mummies and babies. So, your need for vitamin C doubles during lactation to about 80 mg per day.
Good sources of vitamin C are:
1. Citrus fruits like Orange, Guava, lemon, s Sweet Lime etc.
2. Vegetables such as Capsicum, Cabbage, broccoli and coriander.
3. Other foods like papaya, tomato and amla.
Amla is a gold-mine of vitamin C. One small amla per day fulfils your daily requirements for this nutrient. Vitamin C is highly unstable and is lost during cooking except in the case of amla, which retains most of its potential even after being cooked.
Calcium: One of the most vital minerals, calcium is essential for the development of your baby's bones and teeth. During lactation, you will need to consume 1000 mg of calcium per day. Breast milk is a good source of calcium. A word of caution here… the calcium levels in breast milk are not affected even if your diet lacks in calcium-rich foods. But in such a situation, breast milk unfortunately derives its calcium from your bones, making them weak. This may lead to deficiencies later on in life and can lead to osteoporosis.
So, make the following foods an essential part of your diet:
1. Dairy products like milk and curds
2. Dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach and fenugreek
3. Sesame seeds (Til) and ragi (nachni).
4. Pulses, legumes and dalssuch as moong, matki , moong dal, masoor dal etc.
Iron: This is an essential component of haemoglobin that supplies oxygen to each cell of our body. Although breast milk is a poor source of iron, you require iron (30 mg per day) to maintain your haemoglobin levels.
To make up for your iron requirements, consume:
1. Dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, cow pea leaves and fenugreek
2. Nuts such as almonds, walnuts, etc., and oilseeds such as sesame seeds (til) and garden cress seeds (aliv / halim)
3. Dried fruits such as raisins, dates, etc.
4. Whole grain cereals and pulses such as bajra, jowar, cow peas and dried peas
5. Jaggery (in moderation)
Folic acid:It plays a major role in multiplication and formation of new cells in our body. To prevent folic acid anaemia, you need to consume 150 mcg of folic acid per day.
Increase your folic acid levels by enjoying:
1. Vegetables such as cluster beans, spinach, peas, broccoli, tomato, potato (specially unpeeled) etc.
2. Cereals like bajra, wheat and pulses like rajma
3. Nuts like almonds, walnuts, etc. and oilseeds such as sesame seeds (til)
Vitamin D:This is also an important nutrient, which aids the absorption of calcium. It is synthesized in our body in the presence of sunlight. Hence, there is no dietary recommendation for this nutrient in our tropical weather.
Foods to improve lactation
In addition to the above nutrients, you must also include foods like almonds, fenugreek (methi), garlic, oats, milk and garden cress seeds (halim / aliv) to stimulate the production of breast milk. These foods are called galactogouges and they enhance the production of breast milk.
A liberal intake of fluids is equally important as the production of breast milk is largely dependent on the amount of fluid you consume daily. Have at least four litres (or more, but not less) of fluid daily during lactation, including plenty of juices, soups, dals, buttermilk etc. This will help to enhance breast milk production and also maintain the fluid balance in your body.
Other related articles on this :
Daily Food Guide for Toddlers
Guide to Weaning
When and how much to feed your Baby
Components of Breast Milk
Recipes for Baby (10 to 12 Months)
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