- Breastfeeding women need additional 500 calories per day
- Breastfed babies have stronger immune systems, fewer risk of infections
- Breastfeeding aids post-partum recovery
World Breastfeeding Week is marked every year between 1 to 7 August to raise awareness on the importance of breastfeeding for mothers and infants. There is a direct influence of the nutritional status of the mother on the quality of breast milk she produces which further has an impact on the health of the baby. Breastfed babies have stronger immune systems, fewer risk of infections, less overall illness, and fewer gastrointestinal problems. At the same time, breastfeeding is a healthy practice for new mothers as it aids post-partum recovery, reduces the risk of cancer, helps burn calories, stimulates the uterus to return to its normal size, and creates an emotional bonding with the new-born.
Successful breastfeeding requires a constant dose of healthy nutrients that boost milk supply and help enhance the health status of the mother and the baby. There is an additional requirement of 500 extra calories per day for women who breastfeed and there are certain nutrients that are quintessential.
Also read: 8 Benefits Mother's Milk For The Newborn
World Breastfeeding Week: Here are some healthy food choices lactating mothers can adapt to:
1. Folic Acid
Folic acid is also known as vitamin B9 and it is essential to nourish the new-born when it passes from the breast milk. It helps in the production of new and healthy cells and at the same time, it also boosts the brain health of the baby. Folic acid can be obtained from dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and arugula. It is also found in beans, lentils, peas, walnuts, flaxseeds, peanuts, whole grains, and sunflower seeds.
2. Protein-rich Foods
Optimum protein intake helps to nourish and support the growth of the baby while it also helps in stimulating breast milk. Lactating mothers often require an additional 25 grams of protein in their daily diet. As a rule, breastfeeding women should include protein-rich foods in breakfast, lunch, and dinner, every single day. Good protein-rich sources include- lean meat, poultry, dairy products, legumes, pulses, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and some vegetables.
3. Iron-rich foods
Iron is required for the formation of red blood cells in mothers and the baby. Iron helps to carry oxygen in the blood and a lack of it can lead to fatigue, tiredness, and diminished energy levels. The infant's brain and body need iron and oxygen to grow. The best sources of iron are lean meats, especially liver and kidney. Green leafy vegetables, cooked beans, and peas are also good sources of iron. Other food sources include- cashews, baked potatoes, pumpkin seeds, whole grains, and flaxseeds. To absorb more iron from vegetables, eat foods rich in vitamin C at the same time like citrus fruits, tomatoes, or broccoli. Tea and coffee reduce iron absorption, so the intake should be limited.
4. Calcium-rich foods
Calcium is a mineral essential throughout life but while nursing, a woman can lose 3-5% of bone mass and this mineral becomes all the more important. About 1000 milligrams of calcium per day is the ideal recommendation for a breastfeeding mother. Calcium is crucial for the bone, teeth, and muscle development of the baby and it prevents the future risk of bone-related disorders like osteoporosis for the mothers. Dietary sources of calcium include- dairy products like milk, ghee, buttermilk, yogurt, and cottage cheese. It is also found in dark green leafy vegetables, soy products, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, quinoa, ragi, chickpeas, and some pulses.
Any herb, food, or medicine used to boost the supply of breast milk is known as a galactagogue. Certain types of natural herbs are being used since ancient times helping women to boost their milk supply. Natural galactagogues include- whole grains like oats and barley, caraway (ajwain) seeds, milk thistle, dill herb, dark green leafy vegetables, fennel seeds, garlic, fenugreek seeds, chickpeas, ginger, papaya, nuts, and seeds.
(Nmami Agarwal is nutritionist at Nmami Life)
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