The mother’s body goes through so much wear and tear during pregnancy and childbirth. She has made a whole new human. The child derives all its nutrients from the mother and the mother needs to compensate for this loss and hence the right nutrition for breastfeeding moms is very important.
As important as it is for a woman to take care of her health and nutrition during her pregnancy, it is equally or more important for her to nourish herself and her child post that if she chooses to breastfeed her baby. I write the word ‘choose’ here because breastfeeding should be encouraged and promoted for the baby’s overall health and development, but for some reason, if the woman chooses not to and wants to formula feed her child, she should not be judged.
That being said, a lot of concerns and questions come up in the mind of a new mother as to what are the kinds of foods to partake during this period for the overall wellbeing of the baby and her. Many women feel so drained physically by the end of the day that they have no energy left. Add to this the sleepless nights.
To get a better insight on this, Divya Sathyaraj, a leading Nutritionist from Chennai, answers some important questions for breastfeeding mothers.
Why should breast milk be the first choice for any woman?
Breast milk is important because it contains the right balance of nutrients for the development and growth of a human baby and to build up its natural immunity. Normally the child does not require any additional water or food supplements during the first 6 months of its growth. In case breast milk is not an option, then formula food is the next best option.
What is the required essential nutrition for breastfeeding moms?
Folic acid, which is recommended during pregnancy, should be continued during lactation. Also the entire Vitamin B family helps in breast milk production. Thiamin, vitamin B6, riboflavin (vitamin B12) belongs to the Vitamin B family. Protein and calcium rich foods are very important. Good carbohydrates are essential to give energy. Eat the right thing and a little more than usual to make sure that it’s enough for the milk production. Eating less will leave the mother drained and famished.
Does she need supplements while breastfeeding?
Vitamin B supplements and folic acid supplements are recommended. Additional supplements help to compensate and replenish the nutrients that may be lacking in her diet and help to keep her active. This does not mean that all the supplements such be taken in a tablet form. Any other deficiency that the woman may have like calcium and iron can be added as supplements after consultation with her gynecologist or nutritionist. Any additional supplements for improving breast milk quantity should be taken only if recommended by their gynecologist.
According to a study, group I nutrients (thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12, choline, retinol, vitamin A, vitamin D, selenium, and iodine) are important because they are rapidly secreted into milk and get substantially reduced by maternal depletion. So supplementation with these nutrients can increase breast milk concentrations and improve infant health. In contrast, the concentration of Group II nutrients (folate, calcium, iron, copper, and zinc) in breast milk is relatively unaffected by maternal intake or status; the mother gradually becomes more depleted when intake is less than the amount secreted in milk, and maternal supplementation benefits the mother rather than the infant.
What are the foods that should be avoided?
Processed foods, Chinese foods containing ajinomoto, white sugar, maida, soft drinks and excess of outside food should be avoided. Moderation is the key. You can indulge in your favourite foods once in a while and in limited quantities. Also any food with a known history of causing allergy or intolerance to a particular food in the past, it should be avoided by the mother. This does not necessarily mean you stick to a boring diet. Incorporate a lot of green leafy vegetables, fruits, fish, eggs, cheese, milk, nuts in healthy quantities.
Up to how many years can a mother healthily breast feed her child?
Six months of exclusive breastfeeding is very important, post that solid infant foods can be introduced gradually to the baby. Ideally, a year of breastfeeding makes sure the child has received essential nutrients for its growth and immunity building. Beyond that it is her choice.
Are fad diets recommended during this period?
Now is not a good time for a woman to follow intermittent fasting, paleo or keto diets. High protein diets put a load on the kidneys. Consume healthy natural fats like cheese, butter, and ghee and replace processed cooking oils with cold-pressed oils like gingelly or extra virgin olive oil. A combination of three oils like cardio lite, gingelly, olive oil is the ideal combination for cooking.
How can mothers avoid weight gain during and post lactation?
A good and balanced diet along with moderate exercises throughout pregnancy, workouts under the guidance of a trainer or brisk walks help to keep the body active and toned. No woman should be in a rush to lose weight after childbirth. Losing weight should be a slow and continuous process Also every body is different. Some bodies lose weight faster than others. Some bodies require certain nutrients more than another. Nutrition for breastfeeding moms is different from a menopausal woman’s. Having a fit and healthy body is more important than the size of the body.