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Nutrition During Lactation

Lactation is a production and secretion of breastmilk for the purpose of nourishing the infant. Prolactin (pro-promote, Lactin-milk) hormone releases for the production of milk by memory glands and oxytocin hormone for the ejection of milk.

Prolactin is a hormone secreted from the posterior pituitary glands that act on memory glands to initiate and sustain milk production.

Lactation is the process of producing milk from the mammary glands. Nutrition during lactation is extremely important in order to maintain a healthy milk supply. A well-nourished mother is more likely to have a higher milk production than a mother who is not well-nourished.

There are a few nutrition requirements during lactation.

Nutrition in Lactation:


Energy requirement during lactation is

  • 1st 6 months of lactation                                     +330 kcal/day
  • 2nd 6 months of lactation                                 +440 kcal/day
  • 250 kcal should be from the diet
  • 150 kcal should be given from adipose tissue stores. Lactating women’s average calories intake is 2500-3300 kcal/day

Exercise impact on lactation

  • Increase lactic acid production
  • Alter the flavor of the milk

Vitamins and minerals

  • If mothers do not take enough milk and milk products, the infant will take calories or other minerals and vitamins from the body reserves of the mother. Vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 and water deficiency can be seen during lactation. Water prevents cardiovascular disease.
  • Water intake during lactation is 3.8 L/day. 20 % comes from food.

Nutrient supplements

Iron supplements may be needed due to iron loss during childbirth and iron depletion. 600 mg calcium supplements may also be provided.

Particular foods

  • Restrict strong spicy foods
  • Restrict strongly flavored foods
  • Sometimes cow’s milk protein is irritating for children so mothers have to avoid cow’s milk.

Practices to Avoid During Breastfeeding:

  • Alcohol intake
  • Alter the flavor of the milk
    • Infants metabolize alcohol inefficiently even low doses may be enough to suppress their feeding and cause sleepiness.
    • Interfered with lactation by inhibiting the hormone, oxytocin.
    • Smoking
    • Reduce milk volume
    • Breastmilk contains nicotine that alters flavor of the milk
    • Low birth weight infants
    • Medical drugs
    • Environmental contaminants
    • Mercury, dioxin, and DDTs in fertilizers especially in Antarctic areas.
    • Caffeine (2 cups allowed, more than 2 cups is not safe for the infant and child to feel sleepy)

Benefits of Breastfeeding:

  • Cost effective
  • Hygienic
  • All time available

Benefits for mother

  • Contracts the uterus
  • Delays the return of regular ovulation thus lengthening birth intervals
  • Conserves iron stores by prolonging amenorrhea (delayed menses)
  • Main protection against breast cancer.

Mother health

  • HIV requires body fluids to transfer. If a mother has HIV then she cannot feed their babies.
  • Tuberculosis (mother milk can be given to infants by pumping but infants should take apart from mothers)
  • Diabetes type 2 (hypoglycemic because of high requirements of energy)
  • Oral contraceptive has estrogen which reduces milk production and protein content of mother milk.
Breast health
    • Diet
    • Exercise
    • Support
    • Awareness of mothers
    • Healthcare professionals
    • Father’s role

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