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Back to Expert Articles - Mother's Milk - Every Child's Birthright

Mother's Milk - Every Child's Birthright

The World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, but globally only 38% of babies are exclusively breast fed. This year World Breast Feeding Week calls for concerted global action to support women to combine breastfeeding and work. Indian women have been feeding their children since years until baby food came into practice. However, India was the first country to put a code on importance of breast feeding on baby food tins. With the upcoming market of baby food and formulas, trend of breast feeding had gone down in 1980s. At that point, Consumer Education & Research Centre of Ahmedabad started a campaign to put statutory notice on baby food tins that “Mother’s Milk should be fed to the child for the first 6 to 8 months” This was indeed a brave move against western baby food companies.

Benefits of Breast Feeding for Child - 

Breast-milk is the most natural and perfect food for normal growth and healthy development of infants. The endless benefits of breast milk begin with Colostrum that is extra rich in vital nutrients and anti-infective factors and must be fed to infants. Let’s look at few of the benefits -

  • Breast-feeding reduces the risk of infections.  Breast feeding is associated with better cognitive development of children and may provide some long-term health benefits. 
  • Breast-milk contains all essential nutrients needed for the infant. Breast-milk is a natural food and is more easily digested and absorbed by the infant as compared to formula milk prepared from other sources. Colostrum, which is the milk secreted during the first 3- 4 days after child birth, is rich in proteins, minerals, vitamins especially vitamin A and antibodies. According to Guthrie (1989), each 100 Ml of colostrum yields approximately: • 58 calories, • 5.3 g carbohydrates, • 2.9 g fat, • 3.7 g protein.
  • In addition, mother’s milk has a laxative effect. In fact, quality of some of the nutrients can be improved by supplementing the diet of the mother with nutrients. Growth performance of majority of the breast-fed infants is satisfactory up to 6 months of age
  • Recent evidence suggests that human milk may confer some long term benefits such as lower risk of certain autoimmune diseases, inflammatory bowel disease, obesity and related disorders and probably some cancers.
  • In addition to providing nutrients, breast-milk has several special components such as growth factors, enzymes, hormones and anti-infective factors. Breast-feeding ensures safe nutrition to the infant.
  • The American Academy of Paediatrics recommends breastfeeding as a way to help reduce your child's risk of becoming overweight or obese. An analysis of 17 studies published in the American Journal of Epidemiology shows that breastfeeding reduces a child's risk of becoming overweight as a teen or adult.
  • Breast feeding is associated with better cognitive development possibly due to the high content of DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid).

Composition of some of the key Nutrients found in Breast Milk -


  • Energy (kJ) - 280
  • Energy (kcal) - 67
  • Protein (g) - 1.3
  • Fat (g) – 4.2
  • Carbohydrate (g) – 7.0
  • Sodium (mg) – 15
  • Calcium (mg) – 35
  • Phosphorus (mg) – 15
  • Iron (mcg) – 76
  • Vitamin A (mcg) – 60
  • Vitamin C (mg) – 3.8
  • Vitamin D (mcg) – 0.01

An average Indian woman secretes about 750 ml of milk per day during the first 6 months and 600 ml/day. Breast-milk provides good quality proteins, fat, vitamins, calcium, iron and other minerals up to 4-6 months.

Benefits of Breast Feeding for Mothers -

  • Breastfeeding burns extra calories, so it can help you lose pregnancy weight faster. It releases the hormone oxytocin, which helps your uterus return to its pre-pregnancy size and may reduce uterine bleeding after birth. Breastfeeding also lowers your risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
  • Since you don't have to buy and measure formula, sterilize nipples, or warm bottles, it saves you time and money. It also gives you regular time to relax quietly with your new-born as you bond.
  • Some studies have found that breastfeeding may reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
  • Human milk is much less expensive than formula. During nursing you will need, at most, an extra 400 to 500 calories daily to produce sufficient milk for your baby, which costs much lesser then the expensive baby foods.
  • Non-breastfeeding women have a four times greater chance of developing osteoporosis than breastfeeding women and are more likely to suffer from hip fractures in the post-menopausal years.
  • Breastfeeding can reduce your stress level and your risk of postpartum depression. The National Institutes of Health reviewed more than 9,000 study abstracts and concluded that women who didn't breastfeed or who stopped breastfeeding early on had a higher risk of postpartum depression.

Foods known to help Increase Breast Milk - 

Fenugreek seeds (Methi) : Methi seeds have been used for ages to increase breastmilk supply and now there is research to back this ancient belief. Research has shown that fenugreek or methi increases milk supply. Besides, fenugreek seeds are a great source of iron, calcium, vitamins and minerals.

Fennel Seeds (Saunf) : Studies have found that fennel seeds increase milk supply. Some doctors also say that fennel seeds help prevent colic in your baby. They are rich in vitamin C. Besides, they are a good mouth freshener and aid digestion. Fennel seeds can be added to vegetables, rice preparations, dals and desserts. In many traditional homes fennel water is given regularly to new mothers.

Garlic (Lehsun) : Among its many curative properties, garlic is said to help in increasing breastmilk supply. Studies have shown that the infants of mothers who eat garlic tend to feed for a longer time, and many babies seem to like the flavour in breastmilk.

Cumin seeds (Jeera) : As well as stimulating milk supply, cumin seeds are said to improve digestion and provide relief from constipation, acidity and bloating. They are also a source of iron to help you gain strength after birth. Cumin seeds are an integral part of many Indian dishes.

Black sesame seeds (Til) : Black sesame seeds are an excellent source of calcium and are believed to help increase milk supply. These seeds contain many other beneficial nutrients like copper. You can try til ke ladoos and use black sesame seeds in foods.

Holy basil (Tulsi) : Tulsi has been traditionally used to help cure a number of ailments. It's a great source of vitamin K. In addition to improving your milk supply, it is believed to have a calming effect, improve bowel movement and promote a healthy appetite. Add the leaves to cooked vegetables and soups. Or you can make a hot drink out of them by boiling them in water and drinking the tulsi tea (tulsi ki chai) with honey.

Dill seeds (Suwa) : Dill is a good source of iron, manganese and calcium. It is believed to improve milk supply, digestion and sleep. Dill is a mild diuretic and should be consumed in moderation. You can use dill seeds whole or ground in many foods such as pickles, salads, cheese spreads and curries. Dill tea is a popular postnatal drink.

Carom seeds (Ajwain) : Carom seeds are believed to help in cleansing the stomach and aiding digestion.Carom seeds can be used while cooking vegetables, in raitas, stuffed pooris and paranthas or making ajwain ka pani.  A drink made of carom and fennel seeds  (saunf aur ajwain ka pani) is believed to increase lactation and improve digestion. 

Green and gourd vegetables: Vegetables from the gourd family like bottle gourd (lauki), apple gourd (tinda) and sponge gourd (tori) are traditional foods that may help improve milk supply. Not only are these vegetables nutritious, they are also easy to digest.

Pulses or lentils (Dals) : Pulses, especially red lentils or masoor dal are not only believed to improve milk supply but are also high in iron and fibre. Use a pressure cooker to prepare them to save time and add spices and condiments of your choice.

Nuts and dried fruits (Meva) : Almonds (badaam) and cashews (kaju) are believed to boost breastmilk production.

Oils and Butter : Certain fats from oils and butter are healthy. Oils like olive oil, flaxseed oil and sesame oil are healthier oils believed to aid breastfeeding. Butter, coconut oil and ghee, when consumed in moderation, can boost energy. Use them to cook or just drizzle some over chappatis.




Publised On: Aug 05, 2015

Dr Janki Patel, Ph. D  in Nutrition (Practicing Nutritionist at Healthy Minds)

Author: Dr Janki Patel, Ph. D in Nutrition (Practicing Nutritionist at Healthy Minds)


Views: 844

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