Breastfeeding burns extra calories, thus it can help you lose weight faster after your pregnancy. It releases the hormone oxytocin, which aids in the return of your uterus to its pre-pregnancy size. Breastfeeding also reduces your chances of developing breast & ovarian cancer and osteoporosis.
It saves you time and money because you don’t have to buy and measure formula, sanitise nipples, or reheat bottles. It also allows you to spend quality time with your newborn and bond.
What is breast milk?
Your breasts create perfect “first milk” for the first few days after birth. It’s known as colostrum. Colostrum is thick and yellowish, and there isn’t much of it, but it’s enough to meet your baby’s nutritional requirements. Colostrum aids in the development and preparation of a newborn’s digestive tract for the digestion of breast milk and enhances immunity of the newborn.
Colostrum is the earliest phase of breast milk, and it changes throughout time to provide your baby with the nutrition he or she requires as it grows. Transitional milk is the name of the second phase. Your body makes this as your colostrum is eventually replaced by mature milk, the third phase of breast milk.
After colostrum, you’ll start producing transitional milk, followed by mature milk – 10 to 15 days after giving birth, which will provide your baby with all the nutrition they require until 6 months of age.
Breastfeeding exclusively for 6 months is recommended by experts. Your breasts may produce less milk if you supplement with formula as the production of milk is dependent on demand and the sucking action of the infant.
During lactation, there are certain nutritional requirements that must be met.
It’s worth noting that nutritional requirements during nursing are higher than during pregnancy. The birth weight of the baby doubles in the first four to six months of its life. The milk produced during this time has to meet the growing baby’s needs.
Nutritional requirements also alter with maternal age, which can have a significant impact on maternal nutritional status and milk composition, particularly in teenage or impoverished mothers.
Some points to keep in mind:
1. Iron: Iron supplementation is commonly prescribed to compensate for blood losses incurred during childbirth and menstruation. It should be noted that some women who exclusively breastfeed for at least six months experience amenorrhoea and hence do not lose iron through menstruation during that time.
2. Calcium: Calcium is required during lactation. The regulatory processes of the body change so that there is increased calcium absorption, decreased renal excretion, and enhanced bone calcium mobilisation. The American Academy of Paediatrics recommends that lactating mothers consume five servings per day of calcium-rich foods of any kind, such as low-fat yoghourt or cheese, as well as other calcium-rich non-dairy foods, such as fish consumed with its bones (for example, canned sardines), salmon, broccoli, sesame seeds, etc. to meet their calcium requirements.
3. Protein: When compared to calorie requirements, the increase in protein requirements during lactation is minimal. Consumption of protein-rich foods can meet the increased requirements during nursing (for example, one egg, 25g of cheese or 175g of milk). Casein is the protein component of milk that is required for calcium and phosphate absorption in the infant’s intestines and has immunomodulatory properties.
4. Carbohydrate: Lactose is the most abundant carbohydrate in human milk and is critical for the continued brain development of infants. Despite the fact that lactose concentrations are less variable than those of other nutrients, overall output is lowered in moms who are severely malnourished.
5. Water: It makes about 85–95 percent of the total volume of milk. Many people believe that increasing water intake will boost milk production, but multiple studies have shown that forcing fluid intake beyond what is required to quench thirst has little effect on lactation.
6. Salt: The salt content of colostrum is higher than that of mature milk. There is no evidence of a link between salt intake during lactation and sodium levels in breast milk, according to research. However, tiny amounts of salt, fortified with iodine, should be consumed (iodised salt).
7. Vitamins: The content of several vitamins in breast milk is determined by the mother’s levels, and deficiency in the mother might result in a deficiency in the newborn. This is especially true for thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), and vitamins B6, B12, E, and A, thus increasing your consumption during lactation is recommended.
Contact Kanupriya Khanna if you need specialist advise on your baby’s diet during the pandemic. She is a Senior Consultant Nutritionist and Dietitian with over 18 years of expertise in the field of nutrition and is regarded as one of the best nutritionist /dietitian in Delhi.