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Healthy eating is a must for breastfeeding mothers: Here’s why

This article is authored by Dr. Dharini Krishnan, an award-winning Consultant Dietitian, she believes that for a healthy body and mind, we must combine modern medicine with native Indian practices which are proven to benefit us.

Motherhood is an enriching experience for many women, but it also puts significant demands on women’s bodies. While we now recognise the need for women to eat healthily during pregnancy, it’s just as vital to pay attention to a woman’s dietafter delivery - during breastfeeding.

Nutritional needs after delivery

Since babies are exclusively breastfed in the first six months of their lives, their nutrition is entirely dependent on the diet of their mothers. Only if lactating mothers eat well can they pass on adequate nutrition to infants.

While women are advised to consume around 350 extra calories per day during pregnancy, this number increases during the time they breastfeed their infants. Thus, lactating mothers require an additional 600 calories per day during the first six months in their diet after delivery, and 520 calories for the next six months as the baby will also be taking other foods.

This extra nutrition is in addition to what they normally require. For instance, a woman with an ideal body weight of 60kg normally requires around 36 to 48 gm per day of protein in her diet. This increases by 13.6 gm during the first six months of breastfeeding, and by 10.6 gm during the next six months.

Healthy diet for breastfeeding mothers

Eat Breakfast

Perhaps the most important dietary requirement for breastfeeding mothers is a sufficient quantity of protein. Proteins form the building blocks for the growth and development of infants, which they receive through mother’s milk. Thus, women need to incorporate plenty of protein into their diet.

For vegetarians, dals are one of the healthiest sources of protein. Beginning with green gram, women should consume a variety of dals while they are breastfeeding. They should also ensure a high intake of dairy products in the form of milk and curd. While it is recommended that they consume at least 750 ml of dairy per day, vegetarians can consider increasing this quantity further too. For non-vegetarians, egg, chicken or fish in less oily dishes such as gravies or boiled and lightly spiced are the way to go.

Women also require a variety of vegetables and fruits to ensure that the micronutrient requirements of the infant are fully met. They should aim to eat at least one cup of vegetables in two meals of the day, starting with beans, gourds, and brinjal. A sufficient quantity of cereals and oils are also necessary to satisfy energy and fat requirements.

Finally, it is important to eat a sufficient quantity of foods such as garlic, oats, and asparagus. These foods, called galactogogues, play a vital role in breastfeeding by improving lactation.

Women should also ensure that they do not skimp on calories, go on any sort of a restrictive diet, or try to lose weight while breastfeeding.

Traditional foods to help new mothers

Skin Care

The physical and hormonal changes of pregnancy and delivery have a strong impact on women’s digestion. So, it’s important for new mothers to focus on their digestion. Traditionally, breastfeeding mothers are advised to eat more of spices such as jeera and pepper to improve digestion. Rasam is a good source of such spices.

In South Indian communities, a range of powders such as curry leaf powder, angayapodi (made with a combination of neem leaves and sundakkai or turkey berry), and sukkuthippilimarundhu (with dry ginger and long peppers) are recommended for improving digestion, providing micronutrients such as iron, and warding of illnesses such as coughs and colds. Betel leaf with lime and betel nuts is also traditionally recommended for providing additional calcium.

Eat healthy and stay healthy

Include all the major food groups in your diet, with a focus on proteins, vegetables and fruits.Drink a lot of fluids in the form of water and milk, as this improves lactation. Make sure you do not overeat, all you need are an extra 520 to 600 calories per day. Rest when the baby sleeps so that you get sufficient sleep, stay relaxed and avoid excess stress. Stress can affect lactation.After six weeks following delivery, regularly do exercises to get your abdomen back into shape.



DISCLAIMER

The views and opinions expressed, and assumptions & analysis presented in this content piece are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company. The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this website is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

 

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Your baby’s first solids: How your infant can shift smoothly from breastmilk to other foods

Dr. Dharini Krishnan

Dr. Dharini Krishnan
09 January 2021

This article is authored by Dr. Dharini Krishnan, an award-winning Consultant Dietitian, she believes that for a healthy body and mind, we must combine modern medicine with native Indian practices which are proven to benefit us.

Every step of raising an infant is fraught with stress, as parents agonize over whether they are making the right decisions. One of the biggest transitions parents worry over is the shift from breast milk to solid foods.

Fortunately, the process can be easy and comfortably managed if parents follow a few simple strategies.

Infant growth and nutrition

Eat Breakfast

The first year of a baby’s life is a time of rapid and intense growth. Usually, the baby doubles its birth weight at about six months and triples it at about one year. All of the physiological systems of the infant body undergo rapid growth. The baby’s height also increases by about 10-12 inches in the first year after birth.

Brain development is another crucial area of rapid growth. Infants are born with 100-200 billion neurons or nerve cells, but these are not fully mature. During infancy and toddlerhood, the brain forms thousands of connections between its nerve cells.

Infants also develop several sensory and motor reflexes, as well as motor skills related to crawling, standing and walking.

All of these developments require large amounts of energy, as well as a range of nutrients. While breast milk forms a necessary part of the infant diet, therefore, it is not sufficient by itself.

Transitioning from breastmilk to solid foods

Skin Care

Shifting to solid foods is a gradual and progressive process that can be carried out in a series of well-planned steps. The first food infants can be introduced to are grains in the form of porridge, since they provide energy in the form of carbohydrates to fuel the infant’s growth. In south India, ragi is often preferred because it is a rich source of calcium, iron and protein, besides providing carbohydrates. These grains have to be dehusked by soaking, grinding and straining to make them easy to digest.

Next, infants can be introduced to a new vegetable every week. Parents can begin with carrots and watery vegetables, followed by beans, and finally leading up to cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli. With fruits, parents can start with stewed apple, followed by mashed ripe bananas, and then other soft fruits. Harder fruits should be blended before being fed to infants.

With proteins, green gram dal is the best to start with, while some proteins like chana dal should preferably be given only after one year. Non-vegetarian proteins like egg, fish and chicken can also be started after the first year.

If breastfeeding is stopped after the first year for any reason, cow’s milk or curd can be given. Once the child reaches the age of one, he or she can eat most of the foods that the rest of the family eats, provided nothing is too oily or spicy.

In terms of preparation, parents should start with pureed or mashed foods, followed by food cut into very tiny pieces. Eventually, they can move to finger foods and then hard foods such as small apple pieces or boiled beans.

Feeding fussy children

For many parents, children growing fussy about eating is a major cause for concern. However, many children become fussy when parents focus too much attention on the feeding process in some way. When children start sitting up, they should be encouraged to pick up pieces of their food and eat it themselves. They should also be encouraged to sit and eat with the rest of the family from the first year onwards. If they learn from other members of the family to eat different varieties of foods, they are likely to develop healthy eating habits. On the other hand, if parents try to only feed children particular foods that they initially develop a liking for, they are more likely to grow fussy.

Transitioning from breastmilk to solid foods can seem a complex and difficult task for many parents. However, there are a few simple strategies that parents can follow to simply things for themselves and their babies. Done right, introducing children to solid foods can be a joyous experience of discovery for parent and child.



DISCLAIMER

The views and opinions expressed, and assumptions & analysis presented in this content piece are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company. The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this website is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

 

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