Every year, World Breastfeeding Week is observed from August 1 to 7 in order to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding worldwide. Breastfeeding a newborn, until the age of six months, is considered extremely crucial as it not only provides them nutrition but also imparts immunity against various diseases. While scientific research states that 90 per cent of women can produce enough milk for their children, only 41 per cent of infants are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of their life.
Highlighting the same, Dr Preethi Gowda, Consultant Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Fortis Hospital, Nagarbhavi, said, “We frequently overlook that milk production is directly proportional to the child’s desire. When breastfeeding, the nerves of the breast signal the brain to release ‘prolactin’. This is the hormone that’s responsible for producing milk. If the child is put on a routine of being breastfed, especially at night, another important hormone called oxytocin boosts the production of milk.”
Additionally, factors such as the environment the mother is in, her emotional well-being, her diet and if she has had any medical problems in the past determine the production of milk, the expert said.
As such, lactation can be increased through a nutritious diet and keeping the mothers relaxed and stress-free. Dr Savitha Shetty, Senior Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at Apollo Hospitals, Sheshadripuram, Bengaluru said, “For lactating mothers, the calorie requirement is much more than in pregnancy.”
Consume these food items for increased lactation supply
Shalini Arvind, Chief Dietitian, Fortis Hospital, Bannergatta Road, suggested eating food items rich in proteins, fats and micronutrients such as vitamin A, B1, B2, B3, C, folic acid and vitamin B12, calcium, and iron to increase lactation supply. “These foods promote the flow of the mother’s milk by increasing the level of prolactin in the body,” she said.
“Lactogenic foods include fenugreek, barley, dark greens leafy vegetables, carrot, beetroot, yam, turmeric, nuts, green papaya, ginger, garlic, sesame seeds, and garden cress seeds boost lactation in mothers. A lactating mother must hydrate herself well and consume enough fibre-rich foods to avoid constipation,” the dietitian added.
Agreed Dr Shetty, adding that lactating mothers should consume at least 4 glasses of milk every day and never restrict water intake. “Certain foods improve breast milk like dill leaves called sabbaki in Kannada. Incorporate a lot of fresh coconut in cooking for lactating mothers. Fenugreek seeds are a good galactagogue,” she said.
Further, food items such as oats, millets, brown rice, barley, chickpeas, cashews, walnuts, sesame and flax, too, can help boost milk supply in lactating mothers, Dr B Gowthami, Consultant – Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at Milann Fertility and Birthing Hospital, said.