Breastfeeding tips and foods for a new mother

A new mother and baby will take time to settle into a good breastfeeding routine. Following a healthy diet, ensuring proper rest and a happy state of mind post-partum is what will make breastfeeding successful.

By Shweta Mehra

Did you know that breastfeeding makes the brain happy? The brain releases prolactin and oxytocin while breastfeeding that makes a mother bond with her baby and feel good! Here’s another fun fact – in cultures like the Kung San in South Africa – it is normal to breastfeed an infant up to 100 times a day. Talk about celebrating breastfeeding daily!

Breastfeeding is a wonderful and natural outcome after having a baby. A woman’s body produces this liquid gold, which is tailormade for the baby. Breast milk not only has the ability to change with time as the baby grows but it changes within a single feed to adapt to the needs of the baby.

Foods to have while breastfeeding

A breastfeeding mother should focus on intake of healthy galactagogues. The amount and quality of the milk produced is directly linked to the quality of nutritional intake. Traditionally, a lot of Indian foods that are given to the new mother are known to be galactogogues – foods that boost milk production. Here are a few things a new mother must include in her diet:

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Often really overlooked, but breast milk is made up of nearly 80 per cent water. While it isn’t necessary to go overboard with the water intake, a new mother generally forgets to hydrate herself, what with the sleepless nights, diaper changes and the general schedule readjustment. That is why sipping on warm water though the day is a great idea as it helps the mother to be hydrated and happy for the next feed.

Fenugreek, fennel and cumin seeds

These seeds are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, calcium and help to relieve gas, bloating and constipation.

Sesame seeds

One of the richest non-dairy sources of calcium, these can help fulfill the 1000 – 1300 milligrams of daily calcium needs of a breastfeeding woman.

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Oatmeal is a good source of iron. Studies show that low levels of iron can inhibit milk production. Oats can be incorporated into smoothies, overnight oat preparations or cookies, all easily prepared by the busy new mother.

Chickpeas and lentils

Both superfoods, they are rich in vitamins, minerals and protein. These foods not only improve the milk supply but also nourish the mother and help her regain her strength back.

Garden Cress or Haleem Seeds

Rich in phytochemicals and iron, these are often served as ladoos or halwa preparation for the new mother. A tablespoon of garden cress seeds (also known as Aleev / Chandrashoor seeds) can help fulfill up to 60 per cent of the required daily iron intake.

Apart from this, a breastfeeding mother must include calcium rich foods like milk, ragi, quinoa, buttermilk, paneer, ghee etc in her diet. This helps to prevent bone degeneration of the mother and promotes healthy bone development for the baby.

Another very important addition is to include foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids. This includes foods like walnuts, flaxseeds, avocados and kidney beans. Omega-3 fatty acids are a very important factor in cognitive development of the baby.

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Tips for new mothers:

1. A common concern for new mothers is ‘is the baby having enough?’ The answer is ‘yes’. As long as the baby is gaining a good amount of weight (the paediatrician should be able to help with this) and is producing a good number of soiled diapers to keep you on your toes, then the baby is having enough breast milk.

2. A lot of mothers experience back pain post-delivery that significantly increases with improper feeding position. Ensure that the mother has enough back support and use a nursing pillow to raise the baby for a comfortable feeding experience.

3. On demand nursing is the way to go with the baby. Commonly, all baby books talk about nursing every two hours. While it takes time to settle into such a routine, know that cluster feedings and on demand feedings are actually the baby’s way of ensuring that the mother produces more milk as they grow.

A new mother and baby will take time to settle into a good breastfeeding routine. Following a healthy diet, ensuring proper rest and a happy state of mind post-partum is what will make breastfeeding successful.

(The writer is a leading nutritionist from Mumbai)

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