NUTRIENT NEEDS DURING
nutrient recommendations for a lactating mother is based on the composition of
breast milk and the fact that 850 ml of milk is produced daily. However the
milk secretion continues to increase in the early periods of lactation upto six
months and then gradually decreases. Therefore the nutrient requirements are
given for the two periods in lactation ie., 0-6 months and 6-12 months.
The lactating mother requires additional energy for the production of
milk which is calculated from the volume of milk secreted, its energy content
and the efficiency of conversion of food energy to milk energy. Based on the
optimal output of 850 ml/day, energy content of 65 k.cal / 100 ml of breast
milk and conversion efficiency of 80 percent, the additional allowance
recommended during first six months of lactation is 550 k.cal / day. This is
after taking into account the energy contribution from fat stores deposited
during pregnancy. Most Indian mothers continue to lactate even after six months
but the milk production is reduced. Hence ICMR has recommended an additional
allowance of 400 k.cal / day for the period from 6 -12 months of lactation.
For production of milk, protein requirement also increases, as the
produced milk contains 1.15g of proteins /100ml. The recommended additional
protein intake during lactation is 25g per day for 0-6 months and 18g per day
for 6-12 months.
ICMR has suggested an intake of 45g of visible fat per day. Although the
total fat in breast milk is not influenced by the mothers diet, the composition
of milk fat does. The fat also provides energy density to meet the higher energy
requirement during lactation.
milk contains 30-40 mg of calcium per 100 ml. Since about 850ml of milk is
produced, around 300mg of calcium is secreted through milk per day. Therefore
the additional intake of calcium is essential to enable the retention of 300mg
of extra calcium daily. Since the dietary calcium retention in lactating women
is 60 percent, ICMR has recommend 1000 mg of calcium per day for a lactating
Since most mothers have lactational amenorrhea, it results in saving of
nearly 1mg iron per day which otherwise would have been lost due to
menstruation. This saving is more than sufficient to compensate for the
negligible amount secreted in mother's milk and hence iron requirement during
lactation is same as that of a normal adult woman ie, 30mg/day.
The additional need of vitamin A during lactation is based on the amount
secreted in mother's milk. On an average 300 mg of vitamin A is secreted per day. Hence ICMR has recommended an
additional allowance of 350 mg of retinol ie.a total of 950 mg per day.
Thiamine, riboflavin and Niacin
As the calorie and protein requirements increase during lactation, the
requirements of these vitamins also increase correspondingly. The amount of
these vitamins computed on the basis of increased energy allowance would be
sufficient to cover the amount secreted in breast milk. Hence the levels are
computed on the same basis as that of adults i.e. 0.5mg/1000k.cal, 0.6mg /
1000k.cal and 6.6mg / 1000k.cal of thiamine, riboflavin and niacin respectively.
ICMR has recommended an additional intake of 0.5 mg i.e., total intake of 2.5 mg/day, same as that during pregnancy.
The folate content of breast milk is about 2.5 mg . Based on this, ICMR has recommended an
additional allowance of 50µg/day of free folate ie., a total of 150µg free folate/day.
Vitamin C (Ascorbic
Well nourished Indian mother secretes about 20mg of Vitamin C per day
during lactation. Considering this and the cooking losses averaging to 50
percent, ICMR has recommended an additional intake of 40mg/day ie. a total of
80mg of ascorbic acid per day.
Diet during lactation:
A lactating mother requires not only large quantities of body building
and protective foods but also additional energy yielding foods to facilitate
copious formation and secretion of breast milk. Besides adhering to the basic
principles of meal planning the following guidelines need to be considered.
Large amount of fluids are essential for milk production. Therefore
adequate fluids such as milk, fruit juice, milk based beverages and even water
must be encouraged.
The choice of food is wide during lactation. No food need to be
restricted except spicy and strong flavoured foods which might impart flavour
to milk that may be repulsive to the baby and that may cause gastric distress
to the mother.
Almost all medicines taken during lactation are absorbed into mothers
blood and are secreted in the milk. Hence any medicine during lactation must be
avoided or taken under strict medical supervision.
Since the nutrient needs are enhanced, the meal pattern may be changed
to 5-7 meals a day by introducing in between snack between the meals.
When a mothers diet is inadequate, her milk yield is usually well
maintained by drawing on her own reserve of nutrients and evidence of
malnutrition is likely to appear in the mother before it does in her child.
Many women in poor communities have a remarkable ability to breast feed their
infants for long periods. This is probably due to repeated stimulation of the
neurohumoral reflex by frequently putting the baby to the breast and letting it
suckle at night.
Hence adequate diet during lactation will not only help the mother to
maintain a sound nutritional status but also ensure good milk supply for a
A balanced vegetarian
diet for a nursing mother doing sedentary work
S.No. Food group quantity in g
1. Cereal and millets 330
2. Pulses 90
3. Milk (ml) 500
4. Roots and Tubers 100
5. Green leafy vegetables 150
6. Other vegetables 100
7. Fruits 200
8. Sugar 20
9. Fats and Oils 30
For Non-veg substitute 30 g of pulse with 50 g
of meat / fish / chicken / egg.
. Source : Dietary Guidelines for Indians - A manual, National
of Nutrition, ICMR, Hyderabad, India, 1999.
are foods that help to produce more milk. Garlic, milk, almonds are considered
to increase milk production. Studies carried out on nursing mothers have
revealed that extra amounts of body building foods like fish and mutton
increase the secretion of breast milk. Lactating mothers are also given special
preparations containing ajwain, fenugreek seeds, which supply iron, protein,
calcium and B-complex vitamins.