By Dr Preeti Gangan
Motherhood is one of those phases in a woman’s life when her body experiences a major shift. To adapt to these changes better and to ensure that the breast milk has the right nutrients for the baby, a nutritious diet is instrumental.
According to a study by Medela, as the sole source of food for term infants, breast milk provides both optimal nutrition — fat, lactose, protein and macronutrients — to support growth and development, and complete protection — biochemical and cellular components — against infection for the infant. Not only that, healthy eating will also give the nursing mother the energy she would need to take care of herself and her baby.
Here is everything you need to know about eating right and strengthening your immune system while nursing:
Creating a meal plan
New mothers are often tempted to lose weight quickly after delivery. However, restricting calories, especially during the first few months of breastfeeding, may decrease the milk supply and much-needed energy levels for a nursing mother.
Creating a meal plan during the beginning of the month can help take away that decision fatigue out of the equation and keep the temptations at bay.
Basics of a meal plan for a nursing mother
According to NCBI, it is estimated that breastfeeding increases a nursing mother’s energy needs by about 500 calories per day. The nutrient needs are greater while breastfeeding. And the amounts of some nutrients in the mother’s diet may directly affect their presence in her breast milk. Eating nutritious, whole foods would ensure the strengthening of the immune system. Some foods that are extremely rich in nutrients can have an added benefit in a breastfeeding mother’s diet.
To start off, drinking plenty of fluids will help regulate the bowel system and would help maintain the blood pressure. And while whole grains, barley, gooseberries, tomatoes, cabbage, garlic and broccoli will add necessary fibre to the plate. Snacking on almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds and dark chocolate would help curb the craving to binge. The first meal does not need to be extremely complex, playing around with different oatmeal recipes, making sweet and sour versions of the same. Even oats soaked overnight can be an easy recipe to fall back on.
Incorporating protein rich foods such as milk, yoghurt, meat, fish and beans would help in the recovery process and keep the body strong. Filling one half of the plate with just fruits and vegetables rich in vitamins and minerals would help prevent constipation, increase the fibre intake and would also help lose the weight faster.
Limiting junk food and taking vitamins during the breastfeeding journey would help the nursing mother stay fit. If they are not getting enough nutrients from their diet, then this can negatively affect the quality of the breast milk.
There is no need for a special diet during breastfeeding, but what the mother eats does need to be nutritionally balanced.
(The writer is an IBCLC certified consultant, paediatrician.)
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