By : Apeksha Thakkar Clinical Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator and Nutrigenomic Counselor

Significance of mother’s milk for infants (0-2 years)

Mother’s milk is the most precious gift to her newborn. Mother’s milk is complete milk for her growing child, rich in antibodies, antiviral properties acting protecting shield for new born and accelerating growth and development. WHO strongly recommends, exclusive breast feeding for first 6 months of life and continued with weaning for at least 1-1.5 years.

Post-partum a special care has to be taken to ensure that the mothers produces milk from both quality and quantity aspect. Breast milk is considered to be the most sterile, purest and wholly balanced in nutrition for the tiny tot. A new mother’s diet should ensure that her nutritional requirements are enough to help her recover faster from post-partum, ensuring she is producing good quality food for her child, as her nutritional status determine the quality of milk she produces. Diet of nursing mother determines the physical and mental wellbeing of her child; the fact is established that infants who are fed mothers milk have better immune response and also develop strong physical stature. An infant should be exclusively breast-fed for first 6 months of life, before following weaning process.

Let’s take a look on nutritional aspects, assuring recovery of the mother post-partum, bringing on line nutritional needs of an infant. Balanced diet is recommended for nursing mothers to optimize nutritional requirements. Diet review plays an important role in wellness for maternal and child health nutrition. Apart from mild physical activities and supplements, dietary aspects should be given utmost importance. 

Fenugreek Seeds (Methi): - Being high in compound called ‘Beta glucan’, it facilitates milk production by improving the activity of milk producing hormones from the mammary glands. Fresh fenugreek leaves or seeds can be used in regular cooking in lactating mother’s diet. If the mother, seem to be allergic to this, it should be discontinued for good.

Probiotics: - Probiotics are distinct, live strains of bacteria that promote good gut health by improving the movement of food through digestive system. Natural yogurts, asparagus (shatavari), banana, raw cheese is some of them to name. Probiotic diet ensures there is a supply of highly superior quality of milk. Inclusion of probiotics in nursing diet also helps the new mum to alleviate persistent symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), which is prevalent post-partum.

Calcium and Vitamin D rich foods: - Dairy products, sardines, soy products, leafy vegetables, salmon, sesame seeds are all loaded with extra calcium which a new mum needs to produce good quality of breast milk available for her little one. Low calcium levels are often associated with bone loss, constant fatigue and advancing to osteoporosis in later stages of life. Daily exposure to sunlight is important for the new mum and her little one.

Inclusion of fiber rich foods: - Soluble fibres present in oat bran, beans, lentils, peas, fruits have cholesterol lowering effect on blood. Those also help in prevention of sudden insulin spikes (common during gestational diabetes) and helps in weight management and keeping. Lactating mothers should stress on taking daily important doses of soluble fibre (fresh fruits, vegetables, wholegrains).

Checking on Hydration: - Water plays a vital role in facilitation breast milk producing hormone, producing more superior quality of milk available for the new born. It is often observed that dehydration deteriorates the quality of milk produced by the mother’s and also makes the mother tired due to the impaired utilization of vital vitamins and minerals. It also helps keeping constipation at bay. It is best to consume caffeine is limited portions.

Proteins: - Proteins offers better recovery to mother; post-partum and ensure the quality of milk produced is far superior for the new born. Proteins are building blocks of the body and they work in close association with lactation hormones, facilitating good production of milk, protein is one such micronutrient which is very crucial for both mother and child wellbeing. Lactation diet for mothers should have greater percentage of good quality proteins, assuring overall wellbeing for mother and infant.

A balanced, nutritious diet which facilitate ample production of mother’s milk. Nursing phase is crucial, imperative phase where the new born is totally dependent on mothers’ milk for its growth and development. Galactagogue (wonder foods triggering quantitative and qualitative supply of milk) like almonds, seeds, garden cress seeds, coconut, garlic and spinach.

The above recommendations are trusted as a strong base for the new mother to have right nutrition for herself and her tiny tot. An expectant mother is supposed look after her nutrition for the lactating phase way before her progressing pregnancy, to ensure right nutritional groundwork for her new born. A woman’s body undergoes a lot of physical, hormonal and psychological changes throughout pregnancy. Role of lactating foods have their own vivacity, taking care of nutritional requirements for mother and the new born.  

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