The importance of a proper nutritional support for mother is emphasized for the following reasons
- To replace the nutrients lost during pregnancy and delivery
- To return to the pre-pregnancy weight
- To have energy to feed the baby
The link between the mother and the new born continues even after birth. The nutritional need of the new born is taken care through the mother. Since the infant depends solely on the mother to fulfill its nutritional requirements, the intake of the mother is of prime importance.
When the infant is solely fed upon breast milk, the mother should see to that her diet meets her daily requirements and also provide extra energy for milk production while taking care to see that the breast milk has enough nutrients to meet the demands of the growing infant.
It is usually suggested that the energy requirement is increased by 550 Kilo calories per day[for Indian women]. This again is variable depending on the pre pregnancy nutritional status of the mother, presence of any pre-existing diseases, nutritional deficiency etc.
Additional protein is required for the presence of protein in the breast milk. So extra allowance has to be given for protein. Protein rich foods are recommended during this time. Since dals and pulses are rich sources of protein, sometimes during the first couple of months their intake is limited by the mother as many believe that it produces colic in the infant. However there are other sources of protein that can be included safely during this period.
During pregnancy, the Calcium from the mother was used up for the mineralization of the fetal skeleton. After delivery it is diverted to the mother’s milk production.Usually, Calcium supplements are advised for a period of at least 3 months after delivery.
The requirement of Iron is the same as in normal times except if the mother is anemic. The maternal milk is not a good source of Iron but it is not a cause of concern as the baby is born with adequate Iron reserves to last 4-6 months. But if the mother is anemic the extra Iron that is taken in is used up by the mothers body. Generally, like Calcium, Iron supplements are advised for 3 or more months depending on the hemoglobin count of the mother.
Vitamin A is also essential in this period. Human milk does contains this Vitamin but including Vitamin A rich foods is equally essential.
Since the calories and protein requirement goes up during the postpartum / lactating period, the requirement of Vitamin B which is essential for metabolism also increases. In studies it was found that women who came from low economic background consuming rice as the predominant cereal were found to have lower level of Thiamin in their breast milk. Hence in such instances, the vitamin has to be supplemented.
Fluid intake has to be increased in the lactating period for adequate milk production. Liquids in these forms can be taken at frequent intervals.
- Thin porridges
- Fruit juices
- Milk shakes
- Soups and rasam
- Herbal teas
- Tender coconut water etc.
While planning the meal for a post partum / lactating mother the following points have to be taken into consideration.
- The fruits and vegetables have to be washed with extra care as the pesticides and drugs present on them will also pass to the infant through the mother’s milk.
- The day’s meal should be balanced to meet all the nutritional requirement .But at the same time it should not be too heavy on the digestive system.
- A small quantity of all the food stuffs from each food group [ Cereals, pulses , green leafy vegetables, milk and milk products, fruits] must be spread out in a day’ meal.
- Instead of 3 large meals, small frequent meals with adequate fluids is important.
- Strongly flavored and highly aromatic spicy foods are to be avoided as they may produce some effects on the baby.
- Lactogouges [foods that increase milk secretion] has to be included in the diet.
- Just because the mother has to be fed with nutritious and healthy food, one must not ignore the fact that weight gain beyond the desirable body weight is not appreciated. Once the mother starts weaning the baby, she must avoid calorie dense and rich foods so that undesirable body weight gain can be prevented.
While we are aware that a good nutritional support is essential for women who have delivered a baby, this need may vary and can depend on various factors like
· Physical activity
· Pre-pregnancy weight
· Weight gain after delivery
· Pre-existing health condition, like the presence of diabetes, obesity, hyper tension etc.
· Whether the women is breast feeding the baby or not.
The nutritional status of the mother may be affected by several reasons as follows:
- Post partum depression
- Excessive anxiety to lose weight
- Discomfort in the body
- Extreme tiredness
- Food allergy
- Food – drug interaction
- Drug / alcohol abuse
- Dental problems
- HIV / STD etc
When one or more of these problems are identified, it has to be discussed with the gynecologist and the help of a dietitian is to be sought out.
That is all for today- a rather long post,isn’t it!!Tomorrow will see a yummy recipe that is soothing for the mummy’s tummy…