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“Nutritional Needs Of A Woman Are Higher While Breastfeeding”, Says Expert With Emphasis On A Balanced Diet

According to World Health Organisation, breastfeeding should begin within one hour of birth and continue till 2 years after birth

"Nutritional Needs Of A Woman Are Higher While Breastfeeding", Says Expert With Emphasis On A Balanced Diet
  • For the first 6 months, breastmilk fulfill all nutritional needs of a baby
  • Breastfeeding mothers should avoid smoking: Dr Meghana Pasi
  • A mother need not drink more milk to produce more: Dr Pasi

“Breastfeeding is not done for a day, week or month. It starts from the day the baby is born. The first hour after the birth is extremely important followed by exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months. Complementary feeding starts after the child is six months old but you still have to continue breastfeeding till the child is two years of age and even further”, says Dr Meghana Pasi, Nutrition Consultant with Arogya World, a global health non-profit organization working to prevent non-communicable diseases. August 1 to 7 is marked as World Breastfeeding Week and this year, the week was celebrated with an aim to protect breastfeeding. However, breastfeeding is a topic that needs more conversation around it so as to normalise and promote it. To continue the discussion around breastfeeding and to know more about it, NDTV speaks to Dr Meghana Pasi.

Also Read: Overcoming Disruption Of Programmes And Health Services And Promoting Breastfeeding

Understanding Breastmilk

Explaining the components of breastmilk, Dr Pasi said, the composition of the milk is constant; it may vary a bit in calories and fats, depending upon the time of the day and the nutritional needs of the child. She further added,

87 per cent of breastmilk is water, around 1 per cent is proteins, 7 per cent is carbohydrates and the rest is fats. There would be a slight variation in fat content but nutritional content remains the same.

Answering the question, whether a woman should eat more to produce more milk, Dr Pasi said, it’s a myth. Agreeing with the point that the nutritional needs of a woman are higher while breastfeeding than during pregnancy but that doesn’t mean, a woman should take more calories.

The nutritional needs of a mother are higher because she has lost a lot during labour and now that she is feeding, the caloric needs are also higher but that doesn’t mean you increase the content of the food by increasing sugar and fats. Increasing calories mean increasing nutritionally dense food. But, you need to have more of proteins, vitamins, minerals. Yes, a mother needs to eat more but that doesn’t mean she needs to eat double or for two people, said Dr Pasi.

Also Read: What Should The Plate Of A Lactating Mother Look Like Amid COVID-19 Pandemic To Enhance Her Immunity?

Similarly, when asked if a mother should drink more milk to produce more for her baby, Dr Pasi said, that the production of the milk depends on feeding; frequency and the number of feeds.

Further talking about what food items a breastfeeding mother should avoid like foods that can cause gastric issues, Dr Pasi said, it varies from person to person and added,

If you feel having cabbage, cauliflower or some spicy foods are causing trouble to your child, you can check that because it’s very individual. Something that doesn’t cause a heartburn, or gastric or a cholic to my child may not be the same with others. There are no such foods that you need to avoid but yes, you have to keep a track of the caffeine intake; the number of cups of tea and coffee you consume. Also, if possible avoid alcohol but again, it’s very individual. If at all you are planning for a party where you plan to have a couple of drinks, first feed your child and then go for a drink because it takes a couple of hours for the alcohol to pass into the milk which can cause a little disorientation and harm your child. Smoking and processed food are also a no. Don’t go in for sugary drinks or sweets.

Some foods are called galactagogues which can increase the production of milk and some can reduce gastric trouble like gond (gum), saunth (sweet chutney), ginger powder, turmeric, jeera (cumin), ajwain (carom seeds) and others. According to Ayurveda, these foods can help a woman, said Dr Pasi and said there is no harm in taking these foods but moderation is a key.

In case, you don’t believe that these foods will help your child, at least it will help you. If you are having gastric trouble, having water with carom seeds or ginger would definitely help. There are a few foods that are happy foods like a banana, turmeric, any fruit that you can take, even nuts, and flaxseeds can be included in your diet which can keep you calm and composed which is extremely important for a mother during feeding, said Dr Pasi.

Also Read: “Breastfeeding Is Not Something To Be Done In Isolation,” Says Actor Neha Dhupia

Balanced Diet, The MyThali Way

A balanced diet means making all food groups a part of your daily diet and MyThali – an initiative of Arogya World that teaches people the importance of nutrition and portion – helps in achieving this by telling what to eat and in what quantities. To begin with, let’s understand what makes for a balanced diet. Dr Pasi suggests taking five fingers of your hand as five food-groups which are:

1. Cereals and grains which give you the carbs which are the main sources of energy.

2. Protein, a macronutrient which helps in body building, muscle building and also antibodies which aids in building immune system.

3. Fats, the third macronutrient which is again a source of fuel. But, as Dr Pasi says, one needs to go for healthy fats rather than the unhealthy ones which we get from processed food and saturated fats.

4. Fruits and vegetables: Almost half of your plate should be filled with colourful food that includes vegetables and fruits.

5. Milk and milk products.

Also Read: How Can COVID-19 Positive Lactating Mothers Exercise Care And Caution While Nursing Their Babies?

When you talk about the portion size, it is the portion size of that particular food group that should come on your plate. If the portions are correct, then the plate is balanced. Include all these five food groups on your plate at least during your three major meals. Fruits and nuts are something we generally don’t take during our lunch and dinner; have them during snack time, said Dr Pasi.

A balanced meal is important for people of all age groups and gender. For children specifically, Dr Pasi recommends avoiding chips and cookies and instead including some fruits, curd, milk, and nuts during snack time or when the child is hungry.

Try innovative ways and new recipes. Physical activity has gone down during the pandemic so mothers need to be more careful, said Dr Pasi as she also highlighted the rise in malnutrition and non-communicable diseases like diabetes among children.

Also Read: Benefits Of Breastfeeding For Mothers and Babies

NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene


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