World Breastfeeding Week: Lactation diet guidelines and tips for nursing mothers | Picture Credits: Foodie&
New Delhi: World Breastfeeding Week is observed from 1 to 7 August and it is observed to raise awareness on the importance of breastfeeding for mothers and infants. The nutritional and health status of a mother has a direct influence on the quality of her breast milk and subsequently on the health of her infant. Breastfeeding or lactation not only marks the beginning of the journey of motherhood but it is also a crucial phase when it comes to nutritional needs. There is an extra demand for nutrients to boost milk supply and also to accelerate post-partum recovery. Women who breastfeed require approximately 500 additional kilocalories per day beyond what is recommended for non-pregnant women.
A variety of healthy foods in the mother’s diet also helps the baby to appreciate a variety of flavours and tastes which definitely helps in later life. Here are some healthy food choices new mothers can adapt while breastfeeding to ensure health and vitality:
Focus on proteins
Protein-rich foods help in the production of breast milk. It also helps to nourish and support the growth of the baby. Breastfeeding women often require an additional 25 grams of protein in their daily diet. As a thumb rule, lactating mothers should include protein-rich foods with every major meal viz. – breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The focus should be on high biological value protein from animal or plant-based sources or a mix of both. Good protein-rich sources include- lean meat, poultry, dairy products, legumes, pulses, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and some vegetables.
A lactating woman can lose 3-5% of bone mass while nursing. Therefore, 1000 milligrams of calcium per day is the ideal recommendation for a breastfeeding mother. Deficiency of calcium during lactation can lead to bone disorders like osteoporosis. Calcium is also crucial for the bone and muscle development of the baby. Calcium can be readily obtained from dairy products like milk, ghee, buttermilk, yoghurt, and cottage cheese. It is also found in dark green leafy vegetables, soy products, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, quinoa, ragi, chickpeas, and some pulses.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for the brain development of infants especially over the first 6 months of an infant’s life. The amount of omega-3 fatty acids present in breast milk is directly dependent on the mother’s diet. While fatty fish are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, their consumption should be avoided due to the presence of mercury. Omega-3 fatty acids can be obtained from walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, cold-pressed olive oil, and Brussels sprouts.
Breastfeeding mothers are at a high risk of developing Vitamin D deficiency and naturally the demands are increased during lactation. Although vitamin D can be obtained from animal food sources, eggs, milk, and shitake mushrooms- it might be imperative for lactating women to consume vitamin D supplements to support the nutritional needs
Galactagogues are foods that help stimulate breast milk supply and increase the production of it. These have been used since ancient times helping women to boost their milk supply. Galactagogues include- whole grains like oats and barley, dark green leafy vegetables, fennel seeds, garlic, fenugreek seeds, chickpeas, ginger, papaya, nuts, and seeds.
Nmami Agarwal is a guest contributor. Views expressed are personal.