The diet for nursing mothers should be a continuation of the healthy and nutritious diet regime that started with pregnancy. A nursing mother produces about 650 ml to 760 ml of milk every day. This requires an expenditure of 500 calories of extra energy. It is important that this requirement is met through good nutrition for the mother. The quality of milk produced by the body is always uniform. So when the needed nutrients do not come from the diet, to maintain the quality of the milk, the body will provide them from its own stores which will eventually get depleted. Good nutrition is therefore of utmost importance for breastfeeding mothers.
Some points to remember while making a nutrition plan:
The diet should not be a high-calorie one but high in carbohydrate and nutritional value. A hungry mother must have less of sugar and fats and more of high carbohydrate foods to meet her energy needs. Cereals and dalia during breakfast, pasta, vegetables like potatoes, rice, bread are those which would help meet the carbohydrate requirements of a mother and baby.
Vitamin D is very important for a mother during nursing. Iron sources such as meat and pulses should be added to the diet.
Calcium and protein can be obtained from the food such as milk products, cheese, yogurt, meat, egg, pulses, cereals, low-fat white fish and oily fish. These are also low in fat and are hence recommended. Fatty fishes like tuna, sardine,salmon, mackerel and trout are the best source a type of omega-3 fatty acid called DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid). DHA is crucial to the development of a baby’s nervous system. Breast milk contains DHA, but levels of it are higher in the milk of women who get DHA from their diets.
Fibre in the diet is as important as any other nutrient. Brown rice, whole wheat flour, ragi are all rich in fibre. Some fruits and vegetables like peas, lentils, corn, coconut, beans, and mango also have high fibre content.
Dry raisins, apples, almonds, water packed fruits all are good instant energy. Eggs are an excellent source of protein. Vegetables as salads, and fruits, on their own or with cereals are all required for vitamins and minerals in a nutritionally balanced diet for the mother.
Lots of fluids should be taken in the form of milk, fruit juices and water. Dehydration may occur if the intake of fluids is not enough. Drinking fluids frequently, even after meals, would increase the fluid content in the body and keep the mother healthy. Consequently, she will have the energy to breastfeed her baby.