Recommended feeding and dietary practices to improve infant and maternal nutrition

Recommended feeding and dietary practices to improve infant and maternal nutrition

Optimum dietary practices for children and mothers

This paper identifies a set of recommended feeding and dietary practices to break cycle of poor health and nutrition that passes from generation to generation, and it provides the scientific evidence to support the recommendations.

Its main recommendations, by age group, include:

  • infants 0 to 6 months:
    • initiate breastfeeding within about one hour of birth
    • establish good breastfeeding skills (good positioning and attachment)
    • breastfeed exclusively for about the first six months
    • practice frequent, on-demand feeding, including night feeds
  • breastfed children 6 to 24 months:
    • continue frequent, on-demand breastfeeding, to 24 months and beyond
    • introduce complementary foods beginning around six months of age
    • increase food quantity as the child ages while maintaining frequent breastfeeding
    • increase complementary feeding frequency as the child ages, using a combination of meals and snacks
    • gradually increase food thickness and add variety as the child ages, adapting the diet to the child’s requirements and abilities
    • diversify the diet of both the breastfeeding mother and the child by including fruits, vegetables, fortified foods, and/or animal products to improve quality
    • practice active feeding
    • practice frequent and active feeding during and after illness
    • practice good hygiene and proper food handling
  • adolescent girls (10–19 years) and women of reproductive age:
    • increase food intake, if underweight, to protect adolescent girls’ and women’s health and establish reserves for pregnancy and lactation
    • diversify the diet to improve the quality and micronutrient intake
    • use iodized salt
    • if micronutrient requirements cannot be met through available food sources, supplements containing iron, vitamin A, zinc, and other nutrients may be needed to build stores and improve women’s nutritional status
    • at certain times, such as adolescence, pregnancy or lactation, girls and women have heightened nutritional requirements and should increase food intake and adopt other specific measures

[adapted from author]

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