Advocating nutrition and diet for expectant and lactating mothers is considered to be a herculean task for most women across communities. With each community following their own traditional protocol, the elderly lot gear up for the occasion well in advance.

The prime area of focus includes procuring best ingredients, designing the menu, dishing out delicacies, offering tips, recommending healthy snacking and engaging the expectant mother to stay active and happy. Women of the community play an imperative role before, during and after childbirth. In Muslim community, women are very particular about what they eat during prenatal and postnatal period.

“The health of the foetus largely depends upon what a person eats. So, it is very essential to design the menu according to one’s requirement,” says Nadira, an elderly Muslim woman. “For the first three months of pregnancy, it is better not to lift anything heavy as the stage is considered to be most crucial for the growth of foetus. Any extra pressure during the initial stage of pregnancy might cause unwanted complications. So, it better to be extra cautious. Later, one can get into their regular routine and keep themselves engaged. During ninth month of pregnancy, an egg combined with a glass of milk will be given twice a week."

“This helps in providing the expectant mother required stamina to deliver the baby,” explains Nadira. Egg contains energy, essential minerals, protein and fat. The nutrients present in the egg and calcium in milk add value to the diet required for the expectant mother, says M. Sai Leela, HoD, Home Science, St Joseph’s College for Women.

Generous portions of soups prepared of chicken and lamb, vegetable soups, salads and pomegranate juice will be served in abundance before and after delivery, says M.S. Maryam another community woman. “A lot of dry fruits like khajur, badam, pista (optional), apricots, dry coconut, figs, cashews and edible gum (khanewala-gondh) will be roasted separately in cow ghee then combined with sugar and stored in large containers. This nutrition packed snack will be served for lactating mothers to recoup their lost vitality while delivering the child apart from inducing lactation,” she adds.

The community women said that khanewala-gondh is consumed to strengthen the bones, particularly post childbirth. A kheer made of roasted sooji, milk and sugar topped with dollops of desi ghee is believed to induce lactation. One simple recipe recommended by the Muslim women is ‘lauki ka soup’. This nutrition rich soup can be had anytime and community women say that the soup helps in sharpening the brain of the newborn. Dr. Sail Leela says that bottle gourd is filled with water and contains good amount of fibre and with barley combined to the dish, it also adds protein.

Recipe of ‘lauki ka soup’

Ingredients required: Bottle gourd-250 gms (cut into large pieces), handful of barley (crushed and soaked in water for 5 hours), tomato-one, salt to taste and water to cook. For seasoning: Desi ghee-1tsp, jeera-1tsp and pepper-one-fourth tsp.

Preparation: Combine all the ingredients and pressure cook for 15 minutes. Once cool, mash it well and sieve the soup. Season it with desi ghee, jeera and pepper before serving.

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