For decades, breastfeeding the infant from birth to at least two years old, has been advocated. From birth to six months, exclusive breastfeeding is strongly advocated. This means no semi-solid nor solid foods, no other milk nor beverage except for multivitamins and/or medicines as may be prescribed by the physician. Sadly, many mothers do not breastfeed for one reason or another.
Lactation is the period of milk production by the mother’s mammary gland to feed the baby. Compared to any other life stage, it is during lactation that a woman requires the highest number of calories and nutrients to allow for normal secretion of milk and for recovery from pregnancy and delivery. Good nutrition enables and sustains production of adequate breastmilk enough to support the infant’s needs as well as ensure good nutrition of the mother. The human milk of an adequately nourished lactating mother offers nutritional, immunological and psychological benefits not paralleled by bottle feeding with milk formulas. The colostrum, which is the greenish yellowish breast milk produced by the mother during the first three days is nutritionally superior hence breastfeeding the newborn at the soonest time possible after delivery is strongly advised. Within the first hour upon normal delivery or three hours after a caesarian operation, a mother should start breastfeeding her baby.
So what should a lactating mother eat? Everyday, she should consume varied foods from each of the food groups – rice or staple (6-7 servings), fruits (4 servings), vegetables (2 servings), milk (1 serving), protein-rich foods (4-6 servings), fats (7 servings) and sugar (6 servings) following the Food Pyramid for Lactating women (www.fnri.dost.gov.ph/index.php/tools-and-standard/nutritional-guide-pyramid/28-nutrition-statistic/nutritional-guide-pyramid/82-lactating). Of course, adequate water of not less than 8 glasses in one day is desired. Alcoholic drinks are avoided as this can pass into the breastmilk. Coffee and caffeine-containing beverages should be avoided or used minimally.
Breastfeeding, which is best for the baby, is to be continued until the child is two years old. Successful breastfeeding starts from good nutrition during pregnancy, proper initiation of breastfeeding right after delivery with good emotional and social support from the family and outside. Consult the physician or health and nutrition workers for problems such as engorgement and inverted nipples. Frequent emptying of the breasts is a key to continuous milk production and a remedy to engorgement. Low calorie diet for non-obese mothers can result in reduced milk production and inadequate nutrients in milk. to be continued