The diet of the nursing mother need not vary materially from that which she is accustomed to take at other times. In the early days, however, the tendency is to give too much meat and solid food. In the majority of cases, light, easily digested, but plentiful diet is best while the mother is confined to her bed. Such a diet as milk, gruel, soups, vegetables, bread and butter, and, after the first week, light meats once a day. When the mother is up and has resumed her usual habits, the diet should be much increased. Meat may be taken twice a day, and fresh and stewed fruits may be taken as desired.
As to the articles of diet which should not be taken by a nursing mother, it is almost impossible to lay down rules owing to the variation in individuals. Some mothers and some infants are susceptible to certain foods and these must, of course, be avoided. Every mother knows of certain articles of food which do not agree with her, and it would be folly to take them under such circumstances. Tea, coffee and alcohol should be excluded, and highly seasoned articles and rich pastries are undesirable.
When there is insufficient supply of milk, it may be increased by taking large quantities of liquids such as malted milk, cornmeal gruel and cocoa.
The general rule governing a nursing mother’s diet is that she should have a variety of nutritious food in sufficient quantity to sustain and nourish herself and her infant.
Exercise : The mother should be encouraged to be out of bed as soon as her physical condition will allow, and regular exercise, preferably walking, should be insisted upon. The amount of exercise must, of course, be regulated entirely by the strength of the individual mother. Both lack of exercise and over-fatigue have a bad effect upon the secretion of the milk.
Drugs : During the nursing period, drugs taken by the mother are quickly passed into the milk and frequently cause serious harm to the infant. For this reason the nursing mother should avoid powerful drugs unless prescribed by a physician. This is especially applicable to cathartics, and whenever possible, enemas or gluten suppositories should be resorted to after simple dietetic and physical means are tried. No cathartics should be taken during this period without a physician’s advice.