Yes, the nursing mother requires adequate nutrition to enable synthesis of breast milk. Generally, nursing mothers produce more milk in the first 6 months when the baby is fed only milk. Nursing mothers have to eat more quantity of food to fulfill her nutritional requirements. Especially protein and energy requirements are increased to meet the need for milk synthesis. The quality of protein is very important because high-quality protein supports the synthesis of milk in a nursing mother.
A baby’s cry for food is the biggest stimulant to milk production:
Milk is secreted when there is a stimulus, e.g. suckling by the infant. Infant demand is perhaps the most important factor in the regulation of milk production. If water or milk or any other fluid/foods are introduced to the baby, the rate of milk production decreases in proportion to the amount that has been feed to the infant for successful breastfeeding. The attitude of the mother and proper positioning of the baby are also very important. Even the thought of feeding the baby or hearing its cry can stimulate milk secretion. The contrary unwillingness to feed the baby, anxiety, stress or fatigue reduces milk production.
Lactation is controlled by the adequate release of hormone like oxytocin, prolactin and that can be affected by physiology and external stressors. The willingness of mother to breastfeed the baby is crucial in milk flow.
Food choices for lactating mothers :
It is believed that uses of galactagogues foods have positive effects on lactation. Galactogogues foods are considered to be special foods, which tend to improve breast milk secretion and enhance well being and recovery of the mother. Such types of foods are relatively rich in nutrients including energy and also may have some medicinal value. Commonly used galactagogues foods are methi seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, dill seeds (shepu or suva), tulsi seeds, garden cress seeds (Halim), poppy seeds (khuskhus), edible gums, ajwain, dry ginger (sonth), coriander seeds, etc. Different communities from the different region make a variety of preparations like kheer, porridge, laddoos, burfi, halwa, panjeeri, sprinkles, sago kheer, masoor dal (lentil), and decoctions like herbal teas, etc is very much helpful in milk production for the nursing mother.
A well-balanced diet included whole grains, pulses, fruits, vegetables, milk and milk products, egg, fish, chicken; etc with sufficient quantity of fluids is very much helpful for milk production.