Lactation and You – How to Keep Yourself Healthy

Pregnancy is followed by childbirth and lactation in women. It is this mother’s milk that newborn babies are naturally trained to take. But in order to meet the requirements of the baby, the mother should look after her health as well. Let us take a look at the foods she should incorporate in her diet during this time.

Lactation is a natural process which occurs in women after pregnancy. The mammary glands start to secrete milk, which is fed to the babies to make them strong and healthy. But the mother too needs good and constant care during this time.

The nutrition during lactation plays a key role in maintaining the health of both the baby and the mother because the food that the mother takes defines:

  • The quality of her breast milk and
  • The time taken by the newborn to acclimatise and grow healthy.

Thus apart from following a balanced diet, there is a special need for Calcium and Iron in lactating mothers. In fact, 4 things which a lactating mother needs the most are:

  • Energy: An additional approximate 400calories is needed by a lactating mother to replenish the energy lost in the production of breast milk.
  • Protein: Lactating mothers need around 15grams per day of extra Protein during the first six months after pregnancy and an additional 12 grams after that to recover from pregnancy and lactation.
  • Fluids: Breast feeding results in a huge loss of water for the mothers since it is used in the production of breast milk. Hence they need to stay hydrated and a sufficient amount of water should form a staple of every diet during lactation and also afterwards. The daily requirement during this period is about 2 to 3 litres of fluids which can include anything from milk to water, decaffeinated beverages, soups, juices etc. But alcohol should ideally be avoided during this period.
  • Minerals and vitamins: Lactating mothers need certain vitamins and minerals in order to heal their body post pregnancy and also to ensure that the breast milk produced is healthy and good for the baby. These include Calcium, Zinc, Iron, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin D etc. along with a balanced diet itself, which is a good source of the same.

A good diet for a lactating mother

Getting the balance of the nutrients right in the food consumed during lactation ensures the health of both the baby and the mother. A balanced nutrition diet during lactation should thus ideally include:

  • 3 servings of Proteins,
  • 5 servings of Calcium,
  • 1 or more servings of Iron rich food,
  • 2 servings of Vitamin C,
  • 3 to 4 servings of yellow and green leafy vegetables and also yellow fruits,
  • 1 or more servings of other fruits and vegetables,
  • 3 or more servings of concentrated complex carbs like whole grains,
  • Very small amounts of fatty foods,
  • Around 8 cups of fluids and
  • DHA rich foods for the brain development of the newborn like certain fatty fishes, poultry and egg yolks, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts etc.

Lactation is a beautiful phase wherein the bond between the mother and the baby become stronger and the love each has for the other strengthens with each passing day. This phase can only be one full of joy and happiness if both the mother and baby remain healthy and happy. Thus, the habit of taking a balanced diet during pregnancy should also be continued till the end of this phase.

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