Must-have Foods for Breastfeeding Mothers

There's no diet better than breast milk for a baby. But what is the best food for a lactating mother? Read on to know more...

By Pavithra N Raj and Dr Savitha Shetty

Must-have Foods for Breastfeeding Mothers

The calorie intake for an average Indian woman is 1800-2000 kcal. Did you know that a lactating mother requires an additional intake of 550 kcal per day? Since they produce 2-3 litres of milk every day, it is very important for new mothers to have a wholesome, nutritious diet.

Good maternal nutrition is vital for health and reproductive performance of women, as well as the well-being of their children. However, these reproductive years are periods of nutritional stress for many Indian women. Pregnancy-related health and nutritional problems affect the quality of their lives and that of their infant well beyond delivery.

Eat smart for maximum nutritional benefit

Include these foods in your daily diet while nursing your baby.

  • Eat a variety of foods from all food groups (cereals, pulses, dairy, fruits and vegetables, oils and nuts, and sugar)
  • Fluid intake of at least 3 litres per day (including water, juice, soups, buttermilk, lime water and milk) is a must
  • Have small, frequent meals, 3 major meals and 2-3 minor snacks per day
  • Maintain a 1½ -2-hour gap between dinner and bedtime
  • Have at least one portion of dry fruits (raw, peeled almonds, walnuts, 2 figs, raisins, etc.) each day.
  • Incorporate seasonal fruits and vegetables to meet the requirements of vitamins A, E and C as well as B complex. Consume fruits in the midmorning or evening only.
  • Have a combination of cereals (rice, whole wheat, broken wheat, ragi, jowar and oats) for both meals.
  • Restrict foods containing too much saturated fat (butter, ghee, cheese or cream), ready-to-eat foods that contain preservatives, deep-fried foods, dried coconut, alcoholic drinks, soft drinks, savouries, sweets, packaged juices and white sugar.
  • Limit intake of coffee and tea to keep a check on weight gain.
  • Avoid taking any medicine or herbal supplements without consulting your doctor/dietician.

Note: Include galactagogues (the substance that improves lactation) such as garlic, fenugreek, fennel, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, oatmeal and dill (shepu leaves).

Want the dos and don'ts on storing breast milk? Click the article below to find out.



Foods rich in protein

  • Chicken breast (without skin), fish (non-fried) and eggs
  • Low fat milk and milk products such as curd, paneer and cheese
  • Soya – soya milk, tofu, soya beans, chunks and granules
  • Nuts (almonds and walnuts, boiled/dry roasted and unsalted groundnuts, etc).
  • Red kidney beans, chickpea (chana and Bengal gram), horse gram, black gram, cowpea and green gram (all whole)
  • Mixed grains such as sprouts, green and dried peas, and split gram (dal).

Note: In case of bloating and excessive flatulence, use sprouted pulses and soaked dal.

Why is it important to breastfeed your child? Click the ClipBook below to find out.

Foods rich in iron

Vegetarian sources (non-heme iron): Cereals like rice bran, rice flakes, puffed rice, buckwheat, whole wheat, oats and maize

Green leafy vegetables: Amaranth, radish leaves, mustard leaves, colocasia greens, mint and knol-khol greens

Other vegetables: Pointed gourd (parwal), spring onion, broccoli, dry lotus stem and green plantain

Pulses: Chickpeas, soya beans, red kidney beans, Bengal gram (dal and roasted), cowpeas, whole green gram, sprouts, black gram and horse gram

Nuts and seeds: Almond, cashew nuts, dried coconut, figs, raisins and sesame seeds

Fruits: Watermelon, pineapple, custard apple, apricot and pomegranate

Consume tea and coffee at least one hour after your meal as they decrease iron absorption.
Include foods rich in vitamin C like gooseberry, guava, lime, sweet lime, oranges, broccoli and tomatoes for enhanced iron absorption.

Foods rich in calcium

Cereal grains: Finger millet (ragi)

Pulses and legumes: Bengal gram whole, black gram dal, green gram whole, horse gram, moth beans, kidney beans and soya bean

Green leafy vegetables: Amaranth, cauliflower, colocasia, fennel, turnip greens, curry leaves, fenugreek leaves, drumstick, mustard greens, betel leaves and tamarind leaves

Other vegetables: Field beans, chayote, marrow, dry lotus stem and celery

Nuts and oil seeds: Almonds, walnut, dry coconut, gingelly seeds, mustard seeds, poppy seeds and pistachio

Fruits: Apricot (dry), dates, lime, woodapple and raisins

Milk: Milk and curd

Must-have Foods for Breastfeeding Mothers

Diet chart (Sample menu)

This diet will provide 2000 Kcals of energy, 80 g of protein and 30 g of fat.

Sunrise

6:00 am

1 glass of warm water and 6 almonds (blanched and peeled)

7:00 am

1 cup light tea/coffee/milk (skimmed milk)

Breakfast 

8:00 - 8:30 am
4 idlis (brown or red rice/rava) with 2 tbsp gram chutney and 1 ladle sambar

Or 3 wheat/ragi/plain/pesaratu dosas with 2 tbsp gram chutney and 1 ladle sambar

Or 2 chapathi/paratha with 1 cup vegetable and 1 cup curd/raita

Or 2 slices brown bread/multigrain with paneer or tofu/omelette made of egg white or 1 boiled egg

Or 1 cup vegetable upma (broken wheat/oats/semolina) or 1 cup poha with 2 tbsp gram chutney

Or 1 cup porridge (oats/broken wheat) or wheat flakes with milk (skimmed)

Or 2 ragi rotis (with onion and vegetables) with 2 tbsp gram chutney

Midmorning

11:00-11:30 am
Buttermilk/vegetable juice, 1 cup of salad/cut fruit and mixed dry fruits (50 g of raisins/dates/figs/walnut)

Lunch

1:00 - 1:30 pm
3 medium-sized chapathis

Or ½ cup rice and 2 chapathis

Or 1 ragi ball (size of a tennis ball) and ½ cup rice

Or 1 cup broken wheat or millet rice (kichadi/pongal or pulao) with 1 cup sambar or dal (whole dal/soya bean/chole/paneer/tofu)/2 cups vegetables (one green leafy vegetable), 1 cup salad and 1 cup curd

Note: Non-vegetarian dishes like 2 pieces of fish/steamed/boiled or grilled chicken can be eaten on alternate days.

Evening tea
4 pm







1 cup of tea/coffee/milk with 2 biscuits (oats, ragi, multigrain)/puffed rice

Sunset
5:30-6:30 pm

1 cup of vegetable soup and boiled sprouts/2 boiled egg whites

Dinner
8:00-8:30 pm

2 medium-sized chapathis/multigrain dosas (ragi, wheat, jowar and millet) with 1 cup of dal, 1 cup of vegetable and 1 cup of salad

Night cap
10:00 pm

1 cup milk (skimmed)

Instructions:

• 1 cup = 100 mL, 1 glass = 200 mL

• Oil allowance = 2-3 tsp/day

Are you a new mom going back to work? Click the article below for details on how to feed your baby


Foods to avoid while breastfeeding

Certain foods cause indigestion, gas trouble or allergy and must be avoided by nursing mothers because they may make the baby sick.

  • Foods containing monosodium glutamate
  • Deep fried or fatty foods
  • Alcohol
  • Excess tea and coffee, since tannin and caffeine inhibit the absorption of micronutrients
  • Peanut/egg/soya/mushroom because they are common allergens

Herbal home remedies

The practice of giving lactating mothers age-old remedies still exists in many Indian households. Herbs and spices such as cumin, oregano, fennel seeds, mint, ginger, garlic, fenugreek, pepper and turmeric are used in general which increase milk production.

Looking for ways to boost breast milk naturally? Click the article below for more information.


Alcohol consumption

Regular intake of alcohol decreases milk production by 20 per cent. In case a nursing mother consumes alcohol occasionally, a time lag of 2 to 3 hours per unit after drinking must be maintained before nursing. This time is essential for the alcohol to be eliminated from the breast milk.

Supplements

A diet rich in iron and calcium is generally sufficient for lactating mothers who are breastfeeding. But mothers who get an inadequate supply of these nutrients must take iron and calcium supplements.

Tip to stay healthy

Eat fresh, home-cooked food while nursing with 5 kinds of vegetables and 3 kinds of fruit daily. Also drink 3-4 glasses of milk every day.

Eat a healthy diet while you are breastfeeding because what you eat determines the health of your baby.

With inputs from Executive Dietician, Pavithra N Raj and Dr Savitha Shetty, Gynaecology and Obstetrics Consultant at Columbia Asia Referral Hospital, Bangalore.

Click the article below for top tips on breastfeeding.