New Delhi: Breastfeeding is touted as the closest bond a mother shares with her offspring. WHO (World Health Organization) recommends mothers worldwide to exclusively breastfeed infants for the first six months to achieve optimal growth, development, and health. Many medical experts and Gynecologists also strongly recommend breastfeeding exclusively (no formula, juice, or water) for the first six months. After six months, breastfeeding needs to continue for a year at least along with other foods such as vegetables, grains, fruits. Since breast milk lays the foundation for a child’s healthy future, it becomes imperative to focus on the health of the lactating mother. The right diet is a must for a breastfeeding mother so that the right nutrients are passed on to the baby via breastfeeding.
According to the Nutrition Society Of India, a lactating woman needs about 500 calories more than non-pregnant and non-lactating women; that is a total of 2,500 to 2,700 calories per day depending on her physical activity. As India marks Nutrition Week (September 1 to September 7) and celebrates Poshan Maah (Nutrition Month) this September, NDTV speaks to experts for ideal diet and nutrition tips for a breastfeeding or new moms. Here’s what they have to say:
Lactating Mothers Should Swear By Calcium
Dr Seema Singh, Chief Clinical Nutritionist at Fortis says,
Calcium is vital for lactating mothers as well as for the growing baby. If the mother is taking a good amount of milk, she will provide adequate calcium to her baby via her feed which will help develop baby’s bone structure and will play a crucial role in the teething process.
New mothers also tend to lose up to 15 per cent of their body’s calcium and about 3-5 per cent of their bone mass while breastfeeding, therefore experts suggest a good amount of calcium in new mother’s diet.
Food Rich In Calcium: Milk, cheese, yogurt, tofu, nuts are some of the foods that are rich in calcium and must be included in the lactating mom’s diet
Iron, The Essential Nutrient To Fight Anaemia
Dr Charu Dua, Chief Clinical Nutritionist, Max Super Specialty Hospital says,
Iron is important for breastfeeding mothers. It helps fight Anaemia in the mother as it is the main source to make hemoglobin. Iron also helps to recover the loss of blood during delivery. Moreover, iron aids in the development of the baby’s brain and blood cells.
Dr Seema Singh also said that sufficient iron intake helps maintain energy and prevent fatigue in breastfeeding mothers. Sharing a tip for the new moms she added,
Eat dark leafy green vegetables, eggs, egg yolk, red meat, jaggery and almond and you will be sorted with the superpower of iron. Just remember one crucial tip, plant sources of iron are best utilised by the body when accompanied by vitamin C, which is found in citrus fruits or lemon.
Food Rich In Iron: Green leafy vegetables, lentils, beans, tofu, spinach, cashews, dark meat poultry, red meat
The Superpower, Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 fatty acids are packed with superpowers; Dr Seema Singh adds that it acts as a crucial source of Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA), which helps in brain development of the baby. She also adds,
Not just brain development, Omega 3 fatty acids aids in the development of the baby’s eyes, reduce risk of chronic diseases, decreasing effects of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and more.
A 2009 study found that mothers who consume foods rich in these essential fatty acids have breast milk that’s rich in DHA, which is important for brain function.
Food Rich In Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Fish like salmon, trout, rawas (Indian salmon) and pomfret, vegetarian options like flaxseed, soy, walnuts and pumpkin seeds
Expert’s recommendation for vegetarian moms: Fish oil supplements should be considered
Vitamins Are Crucial, Should Not Be Ignored
According to Dr Charu Dua, “Vitamins hold a special place as they offer multiple benefits to both mother and child.”
On the other hand, Dr Seema Singh says that for the newborn, vitamins help in hair growth, vision development, strengthening of the immune system, protecting cells from damage and blood clotting.
Vitamins are important and should be part of a balanced diet for breastfeeding mothers, Dr Singh adds.
Experts also swear by ‘Vitamin D’. It’s essential for healthy bones, for both the mother and the baby.
Food Rich In Vitamins: Salmon, or vitamin D-fortified milk, juice, vegetables and fruits
Consider a vitamin D supplement also, if meeting the daily requirements is difficult through diet.
Dr Seema Singh says vegetables and fruits along with the consumption of milk are very important for new moms and should be a part of their day to day diet, especially when the delivery is cesarean (c-section) as it helps in combating constipation which can be problematic for fresh stitches.
Protein Is A Must!
Dr Charu Dua says protein is the storehouse of energy, it should be the part of new mother’s diet without any question. She also recommends a healthy combo of protein along with cereals/rotis or rice.
Protein is crucial as it serves as the tissue’s building blocks and fosters growth. Dr Seema Singh adds,
Your newborn is in total is in severe need of these properties and so the new mother must incorporate eggs, lean meat, fish, peanut butter, beans or other sources of protein in her diet.
Food Rich In Protein: Lean meats, poultry and fish; dairy products, such as milk and yogurt; nuts and nut butters; beans and legumes; leafy vegetables and grains; eggs, soya beans or soya chunks, tofu, paneer, cheese
Other Dietary Tips For Breastfeeding Moms
1. Watch Out For Caffeine Intake
Experts suggest that new mothers can enjoy a cup of coffee, but only in moderation, as excess intake of caffeine can leak into the mother’s breast milk and reach the baby’s system.
Dr Seema advises for two or three cups a day is the ideal consumption limit during the lactating period
2. Staying Hydrated, A Must
Delivering a baby causes immense fluid loss in the mother’s body, Dr Seema advises to new moms to take as many fluids as she can in the form of water, buttermilk, coconut water, soups, lentils soup.
Dr Charu Dua adds that dehydration leads to a reduction in milk production in the mother’s body, so staying hydrated is like a must and most important task for the new mothers.
3. Go For Small Meals And Stay Healthy
Energy levels drop often during the lactating period, Dr Charu Dua advises eating smaller meals on a frequent basis. She adds, “These can keep blood sugar at a more even level, which can help avoid fatigue.”