7 Nutrition Tips For Nursing Mothers
A nutrient-dense postpartum diet will fuel your energy reserves to care for the growing baby and also support lactation. These nutritionist-approved diet tips are all your need for a healthy, happy breastfeeding experience.
A healthy breastfeeding diet lends you more energy throughout the day, supports lactation and helps your body recover after childbirth. “You literally share your energy with the baby when you breastfeed. Your body needs extra fuel and nutrient-dense foods to do this,” says Nikita Suresh, Ph.D., a Bengaluru-based nutritionist. The secret lies in making your meals more filling, focusing on consuming a range of nutrients, staying hydrated and clocking in ample sleep and rest.
A healthful diet focussed on magnesium, vitamin B6, folate, calcium and zinc have an influence on lactation, finds a paper Nutrition Recommendations in Pregnancy and Lactation.
A Nutritionist’s Guide To Postnatal Diet
- Make sure you eat food rich in complex carbs, protein and fibre.
It’s common to feel hungrier than you normally do post-delivery. Your body needs about 450 to 500 extra calories a day to make breast milk for your baby, says The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Complex carbs, protein, and fibre support your nutrition requirements. “By consuming complex carbs and fibre, you help slow down your rate of digestion thereby helping in sustained release of energy—avoiding sugar rush,” says Suresh. Include these foods in your meals: quinoa, oatmeal, whole-wheat bread, lean meat, fish, eggs, or legumes.
- Stock your kitchen with iron-rich foods.
Iron stores tend to remain low for several months after childbirth, especially if there is significant blood loss during the delivery and additional iron is not consumed in sufficient quantities, says Guideline: Iron Supplementation in Postpartum Women. Iron is a key nutrient that can support energy levels. Green leafy vegetables, ragi, beans such as kidney beans, peas, chickpeas, and dried fruits can help,” suggests Suresh. Combining foods high in Vitamin C with iron-rich foods can enhance the absorption rate of iron. Vitamin C binds with non-heme iron to enhance absorption.
- Focus on choline and iodine.
According to Nutrition Guidelines for Lactation, US, 2020-25, the development of a child’s brain and spinal cord is influenced by the adequate choline concentrations in the breast milk. The guideline recommends breastfeeding mothers to take 550 mg of choline supplements in a day. Fish, eggs, and cauliflower are some of the natural, rich sources of choline.
Ensure that you are eating enough foods that are rich in calcium like milk, cheese, yoghurt to meet the daily requirement of 1200mg/day for new mothers. “Make sure you cook using regular iodised salt. Iodine is important for neurodevelopment in an infant,” adds Suresh.
- Don’t ignore Vitamin A, D and C.
“Vitamin A helps boost infant eye health, Vitamin D is needed for an infant’s optimum skeletal growth and Vitamin C (strawberries, peppers, kiwi, lemon, guava) for baby’s immunity,” says Suresh. When you have these, you automatically pass it on to your baby via your breastmilk, she adds.
- Include plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Whether you love adding your fruits and veggies to your morning smoothie or prefer to toss them in a salad, three to six servings of fruits and vegetables are recommended for lactating mothers, finds a study in the journal Nutrition During Lactation.
“You can have a bowl of fruits with nuts and seeds to make a wholesome snack mid meals. And, try to add a bowl of cooked or raw vegetable salad for atleast 2 meals a day,” says Suresh. Have plenty of spinach, carrots, pumpkin, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and dark leafy greens, she adds.
- Pick a handful of nuts and seeds.
Nuts have thiamin, magnesium, Vitamin B6 that are important for a breastfeeding mother. Almonds, cashews, walnuts, and pistachios are all a great choice, says Suresh. You can sprinkle walnuts over your salad, try peanuts with stir-fry pumpkin or add thin-sliced almonds to pasta cooked with spinach and other greens. Similarly, seeds such as sunflower and pumpkin have Omega-3s, that help with brain and eye development in infancy.
- Make water your friend.
“Water increases your breast milk production, decreases the risk of urinary tract infections, increases energy, decreases constipation, all that are helpful for a lactating mother,” says Suresh. Make sure you have a water bottle always by your side, carry a water bottle when you go out, or eat foods high in water content such as cucumbers, lettuce, watermelon and peaches.