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It is important to ensure a mother's own health since she is clearly a vital part of the mother-infant feeding twosome, or dyad. Supporting breastfeeding means caring for her as well as for her infant. The mother's nutrition affects her health, energy and well-being.
The breastfeeding mother should eat about 500 additional calories more each day than before she was pregnant. It is best that these calories come as part of a normal, healthy diet, with adequate protein, vitamins and minerals. Foods rich in iron, calcium, vitamin A, and folic acid are recommended, with iodized salt. Special and expensive foods are not necessary.
In other words, a mother needs an extra share of the best foods available to the family, just as she did in pregnancy. She needs these foods right through two years of breastfeeding, not just in the first months.
If a mother is moderately malnourished, she will continue to make milk of good quality, better than infant formula. If she is severely malnourished, the quantity of breastmilk produced for each feeding may be diminished. In both cases, for the health of the mother and the child, it is safer and better to feed the mother adequately while helping her to continue breastfeeding.
When supplies of food or vitamin supplements are available it is best to give them to the breastfeeding mother rather than the infant. This will improve the mother's health and well-being, ensure adequate vitamins in her milk, and protect the infant from the risks of artificial feeding.
The mother's dietary intake will not generally increase how much breastmilk she can produce in a day. Her nutritional status before and during pregnancy are important for milk content, but generally only of marginal impact since her body will ensure that the breastmilk receives the available vitamins and minerals. If a mother is concerned whether she is giving her baby enough milk, this can be assessed by ensuring that the infant is urinating at least 5-7 times a day, and producing stool according to age and diet. The mother should know that eating enough of the available foods, increasing variety when possible, and increasing the frequency of breastfeeding, day and night, will support and increase her breastmilk production.