INCLUSION OF fenugreek (methi) seeds in some form or the other in a new mother’s diet is very common in our country. In the north, it is usually in the form of laddus and, down south, powders and pastes are more common. This traditional practice is one of many that is backed by science and logic.
Fenugreek seeds are extremely beneficial to a woman postpartum as it has been proven to improve milk supply. They are scientifically classified as a galactagogue—a herb or drug that improves milk supply—and its positive impact on lactation is backed by experimental evidence in both animal studies and human trials. The diosgenin in the seeds has been found to induce mammary gland tissue growth, which is associated with better milk synthesis. A dietary intake of six grams of fenugreek seeds a day or about ten seeds a day is ideal.
Traditionally, methi laddus, one or more, are fed to a new mother. These laddus are packed with other goodness—jaggery, dry ginger powder, dry fruits and also loads of ghee. In the southern states, fenugreek seed powder, along with turmeric, dry ginger, jaggery and a host of other traditional herbs and twigs, is cooked down to a halwa-like consistency and rolled into a ball and fed to the mother on an empty stomach first thing in the morning.
But many of today’s mothers worry about the calories in such preparations. They are obviously high in ghee and sugar and counter a new mother’s attempts to keep weight gain at bay.
The insistence on calorie- or nutrition-rich food (such as laddus or halwa) for an expectant or new mother is not without reason. In earlier times, nutrition in a house was centred around children and male members of the family. Pregnancy and postpartum periods were the one time a woman’s dietary needs took centre stage and when efforts (monetary and physical) were taken to increase or restore her nutritional status. So, a first-time mother was often offered the choicest of sweets, meats, fruits and dry fruits.
If you worry about the need for such excesses, fenugreek seeds can be soaked overnight in half glass of water and had first thing in the morning. Alternately, they can be powdered and consumed with honey or warm water.
Please note that at no point during pregnancy should this galactagogue be consumed as it is said to be an uterotonic agent, which triggers contractions.
DID YOU KNOW?
◆ Harira (Lucknow), Panjiri (Punjab), Pillai paethaal marundu (Tamil Nadu) and Adige (Karnataka) are different recipes specially conjured for the new mother to help restore her health after delivery.
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