Nutrient Needs in Lactation
Like in pregnancy, adequate nutrition of the mother during lactation is of vital importance since during the first few months of life, the infant derives all the nutrition from the mother’s milk. The child does not need anything over breast milk for the initial six months.
Energy- The lactating mother needs an additional 550 kcal per day during the first six months. As an Indian mother continues to lactate beyond six months, although the milk output is reduced, an additional 400 kcal per day is needed from 6 to 12 months.
Protein- The lactating lady has to take in extra protein than a non-lactating one. An additional amount of 16.8g per day and 12g per day during 0 to 6 months and 6 to 12 months period of lactation respectively should be added to the standard recommendations.
Adequate amounts of good quality protein (milk, cheese, paneer, curds, chicken, eggs, cereal pulse combinations, nuts) should be judiciously included in the diet for proper milk production.
Essential Fatty acids- An intake of additional fat is recommended to meet the essential fatty acid needs. This level of fat in the diet would provide adequate energy density so that higher energy needs of the nursing mothers can be met.
Calcium- Calcium is one of the important minerals required both during pregnancy and lactation. At least 500 ml milk or milk products per day must be taken to meet the calcium requirement and the remaining requirements should be met from other food stuff like ragi, Bengal gram (whole), soybean, fenugreek leaves, radish leaves, sesame seeds, tamarind, fish etc.
Iron- There is no additional requirement of iron during lactation. The baby is born with enough reserves since milk is not a good source of this nutrient. The additional iron in the mother's diet during lactation does not pass on to the infant but iron-rich foods are important for mother's health and the recommendations are same as those for an adult lady.