While the gestation period is important, the days, weeks, months after giving birth are crucial, too. Nutrition for new mothers, therefore, is of paramount importance. As we celebrate World Nutrition Week, Dr Aruna Muralidhar, senior consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at Fortis La Femme Hospital, Richmond Road, Bangalore explains that for a new mom, nutrition has a direct bearing on their baby’s health. “What you eat determines the nutrition you pass on to your breastfeeding baby. The breast milk that you produce is complete nutrition for the growing baby.”
She suggests some important dietary recommendations for women who have given birth, even if they are not breastfeeding. Read on.
* Having regular meals
Regular timing of meals is important. There are mothers who tend to have irregular eating hours which then increases ketosis and calorie deficit. A breastfeeding mother needs at least 2100 kcal per day. They need at least 400-500 kcal more than a normal non-breastfeeding woman.
* A balanced diet, especially at this stage
The smart plate method of meal planning is a plate with one-third of greens and vegetables, one-third protein, and one-third of carbohydrates. A variety of vegetables and fruits with different colours provide different types of vitamins and minerals. This not only improves the quality of breast milk but also reduces the possibility of the baby becoming a fussy eater later. Whole grains such as brown rice, cereals, pasta, chapatis are all important to provide calories for the mother. Lean protein is important. These include pulses, lentils(dal), beans, eggs, fish, and other meat. Healthy fats such as ghee, olive oil, nuts, avocado, and fish oil in oily fish.
* Are a vegetarian?
A vegan or vegetarian diet is fine if there is balanced nutrition. Vitamin B12, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, and calcium supplements may be required.
* Remember galactagogues
Certain foods have the property of improving breast milk supply. They include green leafy vegetables especially fenugreek, garlic, etc.
* Dairy and fluids
A good measure of dairy products provides calcium for the nursing mother and the growing baby. Hydration in a postnatal woman not only provides a good supply of breast milk, but also improves the circulation of blood, allowing regular and easy passing of stools. At least 6-8 glasses or more of water are required per day.
* Vitamin supplements
A well-balanced diet provides most of the vitamins. Some women with restrictive diets may have a higher risk of nutritional deficiencies. Demand for certain nutrients goes up during breastfeeding. Hence, the recommended daily allowances (RDAs) of iodine, calcium, etc., are higher in postnatal women. Multivitamin supplements, vitamin D, and calcium supplements may be required.
* Avoid unscientific dietary fads
There are certain myths and superstitions prevailing in families. One common myth is that a postnatal lady should be restricted to fluids as she may gain weight. There are some cultures where postnatal women are given only a specific kind of food for a few weeks after delivery, such as dry fruit ladoos, etc.
What is to be avoided?
Caffeine in the form of coffee, colas, etc., which can pass on from the mother to the baby in small amounts. If large amounts are consumed, it may lead to sleep disturbances in the mother and irritability, poor sleep, jitteriness, in the infant. Alcohol also may cause certain untoward symptoms in the baby.
How to cook healthy while looking after the baby?
Learning to make quick, nutritious meals comes in handy. Balanced combos with greens, protein, and carbohydrates include scrambled eggs with spinach, a nice steamed lentil, rice and vegetable dish, oats porridge, wholemeal breads with salad vegetables, smoothies made of different fruits, protein, and milk, chopped fruits and veggies kept in the fridge, dry fruits, and nuts, etc.