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Nutrition during lactation

A nutritional demand on the mother is great during lactation. The nutritional relationship between the mother and child continues for some more time after delivery. The newborn baby is given only breast milk for first 3 months of life so the mother's diet should be adequate with all needed nutrients.

Nutritional needs increased during lactation because

  1. For producing sufficient breast milk for the infant.
  2. For providing enough nutrients for the growing infant
  3. For the mother's daily requirement.

Nutrient Requirements During Lactation


An additional 550 kcal for first six months and 400 kcal during the next six months are required for a lactating mother. This can be achieved by including whole grain cereals, pulses, milk and milk products in the daily diet. There is no need for high calorie foods like ghee.

Protein requirement is also increased during lactation due to the milk production. The Indian council of medical research has recommended an additional daily intake of 25gm for the first six months and 18 gm during the six to twelve months of lactation. If the protein and energy is lacking in the mothers diet there will be reduction in milk volume rather than in milk quality but if very low protein are taken then the proportion of casein may be reduced. The extra protein can be achieved by including protein rich foods like milk and milk products, egg, meat, fish, poultry, nuts, and cereal and pulse combinations.

Calcium is one of the important minerals required both during pregnancy and during lactation. During pregnancy it is required for the foetal skeletal development and during lactation for the milk production. The first three months of the baby is fed only on the breast milk so again the baby depends on the mother for the nutrient requirement. An additional 1000mg per day calcium is required during this period.500 ml milk or milk products per day must be taken for the calcium requirement and the remaining from the other food stuff like ragi, Bengal gram whole, soyabean, amaranth, fenugreek leaves and fish.

There is no additional requirement of iron during lactation. The baby is born with adequate reserves of iron since milk is not a good source of iron. The additional iron in the mother's diet during lactation does not pass on additional iron to the infant but iron rich foods are essential for mother's own health and the requirement is same as the adult women.

As calories, proteins, and minerals are increased during lactation vitamin requirement also stand increased. Vitamin A, B1, B2, C, niacin, folic acid and vitamin B12 are the major vitamin requirement increased during lactation.

Apart from all these, role of water is very important in the diet for a lactating mother. Fluid is necessary for adequate milk production. Major content of milk is water. Drink 10 - 12 glasses of water every day.

Points to be remembered during lactation" src

  1. The diet should include plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, milk and milk products, fish , poultry, nuts, whole grains, parboiled rice and pulses to provide all extra vitamins, minerals, protein and energy required during this period
  2. The number of meals can be increased to meet all the nutritional needs.
  3. The food items that help to stimulate the milk production are milk, garlic, fenugreek seeds, moong dhal and cumin. Some believe consuming goat's meat, liver and fish can increase breast milk secretion. There is not much scientific proof available on this.
  4. Weight gain should be monitored. The time when baby is switched over to other food, mother should reduce her calorie intake. Other wise chances of excessive weight gain are more.
  5. Avoid all emotional problems, and anxiety.
  6. Have confidence in your self that you can lactate enough milk for your baby. Remember lactation is controlled by hormone produced by a gland situated near your brain.
  7. All most all drugs reach babies through breast milk so before taking any medicine consult a doctor.
  8. Alcohol and smoking should be avoided since it can reach baby through breast milk and make baby feel sleepy and make nervous and irritable.
  9. Be baby friendly and start breast-feeding soon after delivery.

Recommended Allowances During Lactation

Particulars of lactation Energy Kcal / day Protein gm/day Fat gm/day Calcium mg/day Iron mg/day
0 - 6 months + 550 + 25 45 1000 30
6 - 12 months + 400 + 18 45 1000 30

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