Lactation period is that stage after pregnancy when the mother breastfeeds her child. So nutritional requirements of the mother are greatly increased in this period as compared to that in pregnancy therefore, balanced diet for a lactating mother is as important as in pregnancy

The health of breastfed infant is totally dependent on the health of lactating mother, as mother’s milk is the only diet of the infant for early few months. All the nutri­ents found in mother’s milk comes from mother’s body.

Therefore, it is important that the mother’s milk is sufficient and nutritionally balanced. And it is possible only if the lactat­ing mother is getting proper diet. Normally, a child is breastfed up to 6-9 months. Nutritional requirements of a lactating mother depend upon the quantity of milk secreted by her.

The nursing mother secretes 500 ml of milk per day in the first month. It increases up to one liter per day in the fifth month. A well- fed lactating mother secretes on an average 800-850 ml of milk per day. But, it varies from individual to individual.


Therefore, addi­tional nutrients should be given to a lactating mother for sufficient secretion of milk and to maintain proper nutri­tional level of milk. Lactating motherly

Recommended daily allowances nutrients

Keeping in mind the importance of these, ICMR has given the recommended d”: allowances for a lactating mother. This been divided in two groups, i.e., 0-6 month’ and 6-12 months. Maximum milk is secret’ in the first month. Thereafter, this amount starts decreasing and hence less amounts o nutrients are required by the mother.

Recommended daily allowances of nutrients for a lactating mother


Source: ICMR 1990

In Table 8.2, recommended daily allow acnes of energy, protein and vitamin B has been shown as additional allowance and for all other nutrients as total allowance.

Requirements of energy, protein, calcium,

Vitamin A, C, and B-complex are increased significantly during lactation.



Energy requirements increase substantially during lactation. Additional energy of 550 K calories is required in the first six months and only 400 K calories of additional energy in the later six months. Mother can draw this energy from cereals, pulses, milk, ghee, nuts, etc.


Higher amount of protein is es­sential for the secretion of milk. More pro­tein is required during the period when more milk is secreted. High quality pro­tein is important in mother’s diet. For this, milk and milk products, combination of cereals and pulses, peanuts, eggs, fish, meat, etc., should be included in the diet.


Calcium and Phosphorus

Requirement of calcium and phosphorus increases con­siderably during lactation. Hence, their amount in diet should be increased so that they may be secreted in milk in sufficient amounts.

During pregnancy sufficient quantities of calcium must be stored in the body for the secretion of milk in lactation period. Otherwise, it would be very diffi­cult to make up for this deficiency later on.

Inclusion of milk and milk products is very important in diet to supplement this addi­tional requirement. Deficiency of phospho­rus can be avoided by taking sufficient amount of calcium in the diet.


Mother’s milk has sufficient amount of calcium in it even if she does not have stores of calcium in her body or does not take sufficient amount of calcium in her diet. To make up this deficiency, decalcifi­cation of bones and teeth takes place in the body and thus calcium is secreted in milk. In such situation, bones and teeth become weak.


Milk is not a good source of iron. Therefore, the child does not get any extra iron, even if the mother is taking iron-rich diet. But sufficient amount of iron is re­quired by the mother for her good health. Green leafy vegetables, eggs, flour with bran, etc., should be included in mother’s diet to fulfill the requirement of iron.



Vitamin A. Sufficient amount of Vitamin A is secreted in mother’s milk. Hence, its requirement increases during lactation. De­ficiency of Vitamin A increases the possi­bility of eye related diseases in the infant. So green and yellow coloured fruits and vegetables, fish, eggs, etc., should be in­cluded in the diet.

Vitamin B-complex

Requirements of Vitamins B-complex increase in propor­tion with the increase in calorie require­ments.

Vitamin C. Requirement of Vitamin C is doubled during lactation than in normal times. It becomes 80 mgm per day instead of 40 mgm per day. So good amount of vitamin C rich foods should be included in the diet

Meal planning

During meal planning, it is important to note that nutritional requirements of a lace- tatting mother are more. To fulfill this requirement more amount of food should be given to her, even more than her diet during pregnancy. Food taken in lactation period is not different from that in pregnancy. Amount of protein and energy rich foods should be increased for continuous secretion of milk.

It is important to note whether the mother is in lactation period of 0-6 months or 6-12 months, her income group, and level of activity.

Normally, at least one food from all the five food groups (Table 6.1, page 74) should be included in the diet of a lactating mother to provide a sufficiently balanced diet.

1. Cereals like wheat, rice, mower, bare or any staple food.

2. Pulses, and if acceptable, meat, fish, eggs, etc.

Milk and milk products

Green leafy vegetables and other veg­etables, particularly yellow and orange, like carrot, pumpkin, etc seasonal fruits especially citrus fruits, like orange, lemon etc. and other fruits, like guava, pineapple, mango, papaya, etc. 6. Nuts like peanuts, coconut, till, etc.

A lactating mother must drink a mini­mum of 500 ml of milk every day. She should increase the amount of food and number of meals to be taken during the day. Normally, 6-7 meals should be given to her per day. The meal pattern during lactation should be the same as during pregnancy.

Important things to be considered during lactating mother

• No food is restricted to lactating mother. But if she feels that some particular food is causing inconvenience to the infant, she must avoid it.

• Highly spicy, strongly flavored foods (which may alter the taste of mother’s milk) should be avoided.

• Alcoholic drinks and intoxicants should be avoided. They are secreted in milk i may be harmful for the infant.

• Lactating mother should take medic with the advice of a doctor.

• Amount of liquids and water should be increased, as these are helpful in training the capacity to secrete milk.

• For proper feeding of an infant a lactic mother must get enough rest. It should also be ensured that she is free from and mental disturbances.

• Lactating mother should not breast the infant if she is suffering from serious diseases like TB, kidney or mental disorders, heart problems, etc.

• Lactating mother should reduce amount of food after the weaning, otherwise it would lead to weight gain.