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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), breastfeeding is an unparalleled way of providing ideal food for the healthy growth and development of infants. Further, it recommends exclusive and on-demand breastfeeding for 6 months as the optimal way of feeding infants. Thereafter, infants should receive supplementary food with continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond.

 

Importance of breast milk for baby

Breast milk contains essential nutrients and antibodies that are important for baby growth and development. Babies who have been exclusively breastfed until 6 months are known to have greater immunity to fight off common childhood illnesses like diarrhoea or pneumonia.While breastmilk is crucial for the growth of preterm babies, it remains strongly recommended for all babies, including full term babies.

 

Importance of breastfeeding and factors affecting milk supply in nursing mothers

As important as breast milk is to infants, it has significant implications for the health of mothers as it is an integral part of the reproductive process. It helps to space children, reduces the risk of ovarian cancer and breast cancer among women.

To satiate the growth demands of babies, adequate milk supply in nursing mothers is essential. Women face different issues associated with generating adequate milk supply. Lifestyle factors such as lack of fitness, stress, anxiety, poor dietary intake are common examples of problems that affect women and their general health during maternity and thereafter.

 

How to increase breast milk production

After delivery, a majority of women complain of body pain, especially around joints, triggered primarily by a deficiency of calcium in their bodies. While breastfeeding, calcium and other proteins from the mother are absorbed in the breastmilk and passed onto the baby to aid in its growth. Unless continuously replenished through nutritious food, mothers will not be able to regain their health and ensure adequate supply of breast milk to meet the dietary requirements of the baby.

Given below are some food to increase breast milk production:  

  1. Oats – Oats is a good source of iron, fibre and is easy to digest.
    • Have a bowl of oats with a glass of milk
    • Make oats dosa, idli or poha
    • Bake oats cookies
  2. Ragi – Rich in calcium, protein, iron and minerals
  3. Fennel Seeds, Fenugreek Seeds – Rich source of proteins, iron and vitamins
    • Toss it in Indian curries
    • Soak in water overnight and drink the water on an empty stomach next morning
    • Boil these seeds and mix it with milk.
  4. Green Papaya – Perfect to treat constipation and bowel movements
    • Eat as salad
    • Add to vegetable soup
  5. Spinach– High in iron, calcium, vitamins and minerals
    • Eat as salad
    • Can be used in curries
  6. Carrots – High in vitamin A and is known to boost lactation hormones
    • Drink carrot juice
    • Eat as salad
    • Can be used in curries
  7. Bottle gourd – Highly nutritious, easy to digest and breast milk inducer
    • Drink bottle gourd juice
    • Can be used in curries
  8. Sweet Potato – High in vitamins, minerals, fibre and iron
    • Can be added to soup
    • Bake sweet potato wedges
    • Can be used in curries
  9. Almonds and other nuts – Rich in vitamins and Omega 3, known to be breast milk inducer
    • Eat as snack
    • Add to dessert
    • Add to oatmeal, porridge etc
  10. Chickpeas – Rich in proteins, vitamins, calcium and fibre, known to be lactation booster
    • Soak overnight and eat as snack
    • Add to salad
    • Can be used in curries

 

It is widely recommended to avoid/ reduce intake of:

  1. Caffeine laced beverages such as tea and coffee
  2. Starchy, gas-generating foods such as potato and pulses
  3. Spicy and deep – fried food, including processed food
  4. Heat-inducing food

 

It would be prudent to observe the impact of the mother’s diet on the baby. If the baby is visibly uncomfortable/ irritable and shows physical symptoms like bloated belly, pause for a minute to check if it might be caused by the food preferences of the mother. When in doubt, always consult a qualified medical professional.

 

How to increase breast milk after delivery?

In addition to milk generating food intake, the below tips can also help increase breast milk production:

  1. Breastfeeding should be initiated within the first hour of birth.
  2. Nurse the baby frequently and adequately in each sitting
  3. Be mindful of the increase in frequency of nursing as the baby grows.
  4. In case of excess milk if the baby has nursed less than usual, express it.
  5. Make baby drink milk from both breasts.
  6. Stay calm and relaxed while nursing.
  7. Ensure posture adopted while nursing is comfortable for the mother and baby.
  8. Stay away from alcohol and nicotine.
  9. Check with the doctor if any medication currently prescribed has any interference with milk production.
  10. Do not indulge in strenuous fitness workout routines.

 

In conclusion, it is important to remember that breastfeeding is an important aspect of motherhood, which helps in forging an unmatched emotional bond between the mother and baby. For a new mother, it is a learning experience to successfully meet the nutritional requirements of her baby and see the baby grow week-on-week. Motherhood does not come with an instruction manual and while dealing with day-to-day affairs of the baby can be challenging, a conscious effort by the mother to maintain a healthy lifestyle can make this journey easier.

 

A focused approach to including food items that increase breastmilk supply while promoting good health is mandatory for every mother. An optimal fitness routine which is considerate of the time available to a new mother is also recommended as the body undergoes many changes during this period. There are many resources available online for mothers, including those provided by ilove9months, which provide an all-round guide to tackling the physical, mental and emotional challenges during pregnancy and motherhood.

 

As life-altering as birthing can be, motherhood is no less. It is also important for every woman to cherish the moments spent with her baby as these are unique and cannot be replicated. Only a healthy mother understands the significance of raising a healthy baby. Take charge today and make a difference; to you and all the loved ones around you. Happy motherhood to you!

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