Lactation and Weaning : Nutritional Management

Lactation and Weaning : Nutritional Management

Elina Dawoodani profile Authored by Elina Dawoodani on 4 Jun 2014 - 17:07.

Pregnancy and lactation are two phases in a woman's life when she needs the maximum attention.  There are innumerable changes that take place in her body. She has the responsibility of supporting the constant growth and development of the foetus (growing embryo) internally for nine months and later externally by nursing the baby.

When the baby is in the womb, the body tries hard to provide the foetus with the all required nutrients, but after delivery, the mother takes charge of the child. She should be fully aware about nursing the child, and the nutrient requirement for herself and the new born. Good nutrition is crucial for the mother during lactation since it affects the quality of breast milk and the recovery from the ramifications of pregnancy.

Nutrient requirements for the mother:

The nutrient needs are high during lactation phase for obvious reasons - to support two lives. The table below shows the recommended dietary allowance of a lactating mother:


Amount required


+550 kcal/day


+20 g/day


45 g/day


1000 mg/day


30 mg/day

Vitamin A

3800 mcg/day

Folic acid

150 mcg/day

Vitamin C

80 mg/day


Foods to Choose:

Fruits and vegetables, whole grain chapattis and breads, calcium rich dairy products and protein rich foods like meats, fish, nuts and legumes should be preferred. While you may be aware of the type of food that you should consume during lactation, it is also important to understand a few dos and don'ts of the diet intake, when nursing the baby.  Here's a quick reckoner:

Dos and Don'ts:



Increase your magnesium and zinc intake.

Eat healthy food, especially in the first 2 months.

Don't diet or plan to lose weight in the first six months. Concentrate on making your diet healthy so as to enhance the quality of milk.

Consume moderate amounts of tea, coffee or cola. Be aware that even the decaffeinated coffee contains some amount of caffeine.

Don't consume more than 2 cups of tea, coffee or cola. Excessive caffeine could cause the baby to be restless and irritable.

Consume fresh fruit juices and remain hydrated throughout.

Say a firm ‘No’ to alcohol. It affects the ejection reflex thereby decreasing the amount of milk produced.

Reduce exposure to possible allergens.

Don’t consume common allergens such as peanuts, tree nuts, hazelnuts, cashews, pistachios etc. Especially if you have a family history of allergies.

Consume foods rich in Vitamin B12 like eggs, meat and other non-vegetarian foods.

Don’t consume foods rich in methyl mercury like mackerel, tuna fish etc.

Consume foods rich in iron and vitamin C as it increases the absorption of iron.

Restrict the consumption of coffee and tea since it hinders iron absorption by the mother and baby.

Lactating mothers must  get adequate rest and sleep and be stress free.

Avoid stress and strictly don’t consume any anti-depressants.


For the Baby:

For the first six months after birth, exclusive breast feeding is recommended and breast feeding in combination with solid foods until the age of 1 year. Any kind of food or fluids during this period should not be given to the child.

According to the ministry of Health, on the completion of six months, weaning foods should be introduced to the baby. This is so because the requirements increase and breast milk alone cannot meet the baby’s nutrient demands. In this phase the child is growing and getting involved in activities like walking, crawling and grasping which increases the need for food.

The process of introducing weaning foods should gradually proceed from semi-liquid to semi-solid besides breast milk. The consistency, calorie density and hygiene of the food must be monitored closely.

Weaning can begin with simple healthy foods. Some examples are:

  • Boiled and pureed vegetables
  • Cereal powders in milk, commercial baby foods
  • Pureed fruits
  • Thin khichdi
  • Ground roasted chana with jaggery etc.


  • Salt or sugar  should not be added to the baby’s food
  • Cow or buffalo’s milk during the first year, should be avoided
  • Avoid oily foods
  • Avoid giving nuts since it choke the baby
  • Avoid giving fishes, since the child might develop infection easily if the fish isn’t good.
  • Gradually decrease the frequency of breast milk
  • Provide with weaning foods at proper time intervals
  • Increase the amount of weaning food gradually.
  • Introduce common allergens one at a time, and keep an eye on reactions, if any.

Recommendations about quantity of weaning food:

All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) suggests the following amounts of weaning foods for different age groups:

Time Period

Weaning Food Quantity

Till 5-6 months

Few spoons to 30ml at a time

6-7 months

50-75ml/g  at a time

7-8 months

75-100ml/g at a time

9-12 months

100-150ml/g at a time


One of the healthiest options for weaning foods is ARF (Amylase rich food). This is prepared by germinating cereals and sprouts and grinding it into a powder. It lowers the dietary bulk and increases the energy content of the food. So, even if the child is consuming less quantity, abundant energy and nutrients are provided.

ARF is inexpensive and can be prepared at home as well.


1. Take whole grains and soak it for 48 hours till it germinates.

2. Roast it lightly on a low flame.

3. Grind it into a powder form.

4. Store in an air tight bottle.

5. You can add a spoon or two in porridges, khichdis, dals etc.





3. Dietician’s handbook by Annalynn Skipper, Boston, Massachusetts.

4. RDA from Nutritive value of Indian foods, National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, India. 

*Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.