- Make healthy food choices when you are breastfeeding: Expert
- Maintain hygiene while preparing food for a lactating mother: Expert
- Lactating mother must eat protein-rich food 2-3 times in a day: Expert
New Delhi: According to the phase-1 findings of the fifth round of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) conducted in 2019-20, the country made some progress on exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months. Although there have been improvements, experts fear that disruptions in health and nutrition services caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic might have reversed the gains made in this direction, especially in the rural areas. The fear of infection during the ongoing pandemic has also impacted breastfeeding practices, said Dr Anita Gupta, Chief Medical Officer, Department of Community Medicine, University College of Medical Sciences and GTB Hospital, and trainer for Maternal, Infant, and Young Child Nutrition (MIYCN), when NDTV spoke to her during the ongoing World Breastfeeding Week 2021 to learn about the diet that a lactating mother should follow in order to enhance her own immunity and that of her baby through food.
Dr Gupta stressed that a lactating mother must breastfeed her child without any fears and even if she gets infected by COVID-19, she should continue to nurse her baby while following basic safety measures like wearing mask, washing hands and sanitising the surroundings. She said,
A lactating mother is not more vulnerable than any other women for catching Covid. However, if she becomes infected, the probability of becoming severely ill is higher. So it is important for her to enhance her ability to fight the virus by improving her immunity and the food she intakes has an important role to play in this.
She further said that pregnancy and breastfeeding are the periods when nutrient needs are increased to meet physiological requirements and protect the health of the mother. She added that a breastfeeding mother should take 500-600 more calories than other women. She said,
What a lactating woman eats can affect her body and her growing baby. Even though the breastmilk will be good even if her diet is not, it is still important to eat well because it helps in replenishing the nutrients that her body loses through breastfeeding and ensures that the breastmilk is as nutritious as it can be for the baby.
Here are some of the recommendations made by Dr Gupta on what the plate of lactating mother should look in times of COVID-19:
- It is important to incorporate a balanced diet for breastfeeding mothers that has food items rich in Protein, Calcium, Fibre, Iron and Vitamins.
- Eat a mix of foods across all food groups- vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, and proteins.
- Eat various food within each food group. For example, try including multiple coloured vegetables like spinach, tomato, cabbage, broccoli, sweet potato.
- Eat protein-rich foods like legumes, beans, lean meat, eggs peanut butter, two to three times in a day.
- Limit foods and beverages higher in saturated fats, added sugars, and sodium.
- The food should include essential nutrients like Iron for which doctors may recommend iron supplements depending on need but it can be taken from sources like pulses, sprouts, dry fruits, and green leafy vegetables. Foods rich in calcium like cheese, yoghurt, seeds such as Chia seeds, beans and lentils should be part of the diet. For Vitamin D, a breastfeeding mother should take egg yolks, mushrooms, salmon and foods fortified with Vitamin D. Vitamin C be taken via green and red peppers, spinach, cabbage, tomato, sweet potato and fruits such as kiwis, oranges and papayas.
- It is important to take lots of fluids in order to stay hydrated during breastfeeding. For this drink lots of water and add coconut water, fruit juices and buttermilk in the diet.
- Ensure that the food for a lactating mother is prepared in a hygienic way with clean hands using clean utensils and raw material.
Dr Gupta also emphasised the need of expanding the social protection programmes to address the needs of pregnant and lactating mothers in the times of Covid. She said that food distribution and the facility of take-home-ration and nutrition-rich food items should be done near their house. She also stressed the need of conducting awareness programmes on nutrition and hygiene for breastfeeding mothers and their families.
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 (Water, Sanitation 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 pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.