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Eat Well to Feed Well
Our food-journey begins with the magical moment of conception in the mother's womb; it is, therefore, important for the expectant, lactating and new mothers to consume nutrition-rich diet to be able to feed their baby well.
Food is a critical aspect of one's journey in this world as a living being, from conception through life to death. Malnutrition, at any stage of life, can result in stunted growth, increased disease susceptibility, and even childhood obesity. Severe or prolonged malnourishment can have serious long-term effects on the mother and child’s health.
Expectant or breastfeeding mothers receive a lot of nutritional and dietary advice from people around them. More often than not, the information is contradictory and somewhat scary. Some advise you to eat a particular kind of food to produce enough milk for the baby, while some warn that some foods will make the baby refuse your milk. A few remind you about a specific type of diet that can be harmful to your baby or reduce your milk production. What is the best advice for you then?
Work on your not-so-desirable habits
The moment you conceive, it is advisable that you start working on your not-so-good-for-child habits. Avoid smoking and excessive consumption of alcohol and caffeine-based drinks. When you are breastfeeding your child, caffeine-based beverages, aerated drinks, and alcohol is best avoided from your diet.
When you win over the things to be entirely avoided, focus on the diet that you need as a mother and nutrition-provider. Remember, the balanced diet that you need as a mother is neither complicated nor expensive.
Make protein a part of your daily diet
As a nursing mother, you require an extra 25 grams of protein compared to the 50 to 65 gms needed for any woman your age. The additional need for protein can be easily met by adding a Katori ( about 150 gms) of think daal or a Katori of sprouts in your daily diet. You can also increase the intake of dairy products such as milk or yoghurt. If you can, consider adding an egg to your diet. Protein-rich vegetarian sources also include soy-products, nuts and seeds. For mothers who include non vegetarian foods in their diet eggs and chicken are the best options. But make sure they are cooked with very little oil and spices. 1 boiled egg or one piece of grilled or boiled chicken of about 80 gms is sufficient.
Mind your minerals
The minerals help with the smooth functioning of our body-functions and help keep our body healthy: they make our bones strong, absorb oxygen in the blood, nerve development and functioning, and lot more. Minerals are not just essential; they are critical to our being.
During lactation, you must focus on Calcium and iron. Calcium can be easily derived from milk: about two glasses of milk (200 ml) a day will meet your requirement. Other Calcium-rich sources include curry leaves, finger millet (ragi or nachani as we know it). Iron is not secreted into the breast-milk, so the requirement during the lactating period is not any different from the pregnancy. One can meet the need for Iron from dates, peanuts, organic jaggery, leafy-green vegetables such as spinach, and eggs.
Vitamins and Minerals go hand-in-hand
For minerals to work optimally for our body, often they need support from Vitamins. Vitamin B12 supports iron-carrying capacity of blood.Vitamin D is required for the absorption of calcium and phosphorus. Your baby needs all the minerals and vitamins, and for the first, critical years of development, the baby receives them exclusively through you.
B12 is almost exclusively found in animal products (eggs, meat, milk, for example) so it is difficult to get enough B12 through a vegetarian diet. Consider supplements because B12 is essential for your baby's brain development. Similarly, a Vitamin D deficiency in mother's body results in deficiencies in the breast-milk, and in turn, affects the baby's calcium and phosphorus absorption. Severe deficiency of Vitamin D can cause rickets, and soften and weakening of bones in your baby and you. Consult your physician or paediatrician to check if you or your baby need Vitamin D supplements.
Just like you must consume and check certain things to ensure the best interests of your baby, you must watch Vitamin C levels for your health. Especially during pregnancy and lactation period, your body needs Vitamin C to recover from the wear and tear. Eat a lot of Vitamin C-rich fruits like oranges, sweet lime, guava and our humble lemon. Ensure the fruits are ripe and avoid specific fruits if you are allergic to them. Also remember, Vitamin C is most volatile and responds adversely to heat. For example, for best benefits, squeeze lemon on the food on your plate, not while it is cooking away. Alternatively, eat fruits immediately after cutting them, don't store them open for long.
Goodness of Galactagogue
Galactagogues are the foods that induce, augment or maintain lactation. The most popular among them is fenugreek; the active ingredient found in fenugreek increases lactation. Rich in fibre, it prevents digestive problems for the mother. Methi laddus are a famous recipe for new mothers. Alfalfa is a highly nutritive plant, rich in essential Vitamins like A and E, and minerals such as Calcium, and Phosphorus. Milk thistle or Bhat kataiya has good anti bacterial, anti-tumour and anti-inflammatory properties. Its stalks and flowers can be added to daily salads. It is also available in the form of tea packets for the lovers of green tea. Asparagus racemosus or Shatavari a known uterine tonic and a galactagogue. Available in the form of granules it can be easily added to warm milk or tea. Garden cress seeds or Aliv or Halim are rich in Calcium and Vitamin C and a natural galactagogue. They can be roasted and consumed along with milk or in form of laddus.
Before I close this blog entry, I will advise to watch your water and fluid intake as a mother. Water and juices help to hydrate your body and also provide the fluid to produce milk for your baby. Never dehydrate yourself.