The optimum diet for a breastfeeding mum

For a new mother, the wonder of an infant is constant. She counts the fingers and toes, exclaims at their perfection, touches the soft skin and settles down to the most important and familiar of all routines – feeding her child.

Breastmilk is the most natural and healthy source of nutrition for a new born baby. Medical science agrees that breastfeeding has all that a baby needs – the milk meets and nourishes the physical requirements and the act of breastfeeding nourishes the baby’s soul by offering comfort and security in a new and bewildering place.

So, it follows that there will be rules and limitations around the things that a new mother can and cannot do to ensure that she remains healthy and happy.

Everyone has an opinion – aunts, grandmothers, the know-it-alls, and the I’ve-been-there’s -  and why not - after all, a baby belongs to everyone and creates a possessive battlefield around itself – without having the least idea of it!

Why should one be careful about what is eaten during breastfeeding? What you eat is what moves through the milk and to the baby! While this is the best way to get your own back and probably the only time you can feed your baby all the healthy foods that you always would want to, there are some things which work really well and some that don’t.

So the law on this is definitely a well-balanced diet. There is a two-pronged reason for this

(a)the mother needs to heal and regain and retain strength

(b) the milk that goes to the baby needs to be rich in nutrients and sustain the growth and health of the little one.

Some necessities (Rejoice – there are many yummy things here!)

  • Dry fruits and nuts – high in antioxidants and good fats that are known to increase lactation. Almonds are a great source of calcium.

  • Brown rice, as per research, helps in a roundabout way to stimulate the increase of  prolactin – a hormone that is involved in lactation

  • Garlic –the smelly little pods are known and have been used through centuries to increase lactation.

  • Fenugreek / Methi seeds and leaves increase milk production substantially

  • Oats have everything that is needed to boost the overall strength and lactation in breastfeeding moms. They provide fibre, iron, antioxidants, folic acid and vitamins – a one stop shop!

  • Green leafy vegetables and fresh vegetables and fruits have a high iron content and are brimming with vitamins

  • Liquids in the form of water, milk, soups, buttermilk and juices keep the body hydrated which is necessary for it to produce milk. The body releases oxytocin during breastfeeding which causes a new mother to feel extremely thirtsy.

  • Dals / Lentils are rich in protein and fibre both of which are necessary for the strength of the mother and the growth of the baby.

So a hungry breastfeeding mom can actually eat up the house!

A few words of caution on what to avoid when breastfeeding.

  • Lentils  - the very same ones that we mentioned are a great source of protein can also cause gas and colic for the baby. Soaking dals and legumes in water for at least an hour prior to pressure cooking can reduce flatulence-causing factors.

  • Caffeine – any form whether in coffee, tea or chocolates can cause irritability, restlessness and sleeplessness, since it stimulates the Central nervous system. The baby is not equipped to process and excrete it and therefore caffeine gets stored in the body.

  • Allergy causing foods such as peanuts, dairy, corn and eggs need to be tested before being included as a part of the diet

  • Foods that are a natural laxative like cherries and prunes can cause indigestion and frequent trips to the restroom for you and diaper changes for your baby.

  • Unwashed fruits/ vegetables if not organic will contain large amounts of chemicals on them and are a cause of concern. Washing them with 2% of salt water will remove most of the contact pesticide residues that normally appear on the surface of the vegetables and fruits.

Watch your baby and yourself – and continue to eat foods that create a happy mind and body! For happiness and love are ingredients that every diet needs!

This article is written by Celes Care – India’s first Online Health Clinic for Women.

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