The increase in nutrient needs during lactation will depend mainly on the quantity of milk secreted. The production capacity, which is an individual physiologic characteristic, is influenced by the environment. Emotional factors such as excitement, fear and anxiety can sometimes diminish the secretion of milk and may even suppress it completely. Maintenance of milk secretion essentially depends upon an adequate diet. Deficiencies in the food intake eventually can decrease the quantity secreted and may even change the composition of milk. The dietary requirements of a lactating mother are even greater than that of a pregnant woman because she has to feed the baby in addition to meeting her own requirements.
The quantity of milk secreted may vary from individual to individual. On an average, the nursing mother secretes about ½ 1itre of milk per day in the first week or two which increases up to about 1 liter by the fifth month of lactation.
The lactating mother needs an additional amount of 400-550 calories over the requirement of a normal woman. This extra amount can be supplied by whole grain cereals, pulses, milk, curd and its products, fruit juices, soups, vegetables, etc. Water should be taken in plenty. There is no need for high-calorie foods such as ghee, nuts and raisins.
The requirement is at its highest when lactation reaches its maximum, but it is a need which should be anticipated and planned for during pregnancy. The extra protein can be obtained by including protein-rich foods like milk and milk products, .egg, meat, fish, poultry and cereal-pulse combinations. The nursing mother needs about 18 to 25 gm of protein over and above her normal requirement.
The recommended daily allowance of calcium is one gm. If calcium and protein are adequate in the diet, phosphorus is also bound to be adequate.
The recommended allowances for vitamins are for Vitamin A-950 mg Retinols or 3800 mg B-carotene; thiamine 0.2-03 mg in addition to normal requirements. Additional amounts of riboflavin and niacin are also needed; 80 mg of ascorbic acid are required daily to meet the Vitamin C requirements of the mother and the breast-fed infant.
Selection of the Daily Diet during Lactation
The diet pattern during lactation could be the same as during pregnancy: but it is advisable to increase the intake of foods like milk and those required to provide additional calories. Undesirable gain in weight should be avoided. The choice of foods is wide during lactation. No foods are restricted except that in some individual cases highly spicy foods or strongly flavored vegetables may be unsuitable. Successful lactation depends not only upon an adequate diet, but also upon sufficient rest for the mother and lack of emotional disturbances.