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Children and families

Maternal and infant nutrition

Information about maternal and infant nutrition.

Maternal Nutrition

Healthy Eating

The pregnant woman's nutritional status influences the growth and development of the foetus and forms the foundations for the child's later health. The mother's own health, both in the short and long term, also depends on how well-nourished she is before, during and after pregnancy. Ready Steady Baby has further information on how to eat healthily and foods to avoid, while you're pregnant:

Vitamins

During the first 3 months of pregnancy (and preferably before becoming pregnant) a woman needs folic acid. This vitamin is important during pregnancy as it is used in the development of the babies nervous system so can help to prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida.

Vitamin D supplementation is also important during pregnancy and while breast feeding.  Women who are obese, have limited skin exposure to sunlight or who are of South Asian, African, Caribbean or Middle Eastern descent are advised to take a vitamin D supplement. You can also increase your vitamin D intake by including more oily fish, eggs and meat in your diet.

If you are pregnant or have a child under 4 years old you may be entitled to free milk, fruit and vitamins through the Healthy Start scheme:


Infant Nutrition

Breast Feeding

Breastmilk provides the best source of nutrition for infants. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months (26 weeks) of their life.

Breast fed babies are less likely to develop:

  • Gastric, respiratory and urinary infections.
  • Childhood obesity.
  • Diabetes.
  • Eczema, hayfever or asthma (atopies).

Mothers who breast feed are:

  • At lower risk of breast and ovarian cancer in later life.
  • At lower risk of osteoporosis.
  • More likely to return to their pre-pregnancy weight.

Your health visitor can support you with one to one breast feeding support and/or details of breast feeding groups being run in your area.

Formula Feeding

If your baby is being fed formula milk it is essential that the feed is made up safely. There is a risk of dehydration if too much milk powder is added and under nutrition if too little. Guidance on safe preparation of formula milk feeds can be found at:

Vitamins for Children

All babies aged from six months onwards should be given a supplement that contains vitamins A, C and D, such as Healthy Start vitamin drops, unless they are drinking 500ml of infant formula a day (infant formula has vitamins added to it). You can continue to give young children a supplement containing vitamins A, C and D until they are five years old, as this will help to make sure that they are getting enough of these vitamins. This is especially important when they are learning to eat a variety of foods and if they are fussy eaters.

Weaning

Weaning is when solid foods are gradually introduced to your baby's diet along with their usual breast or formula milk. The recommended time to start introducing solids to your baby is once your baby is 6 months old. For more details visit:

When your baby is 3-4 months old you will be sent an invitation to attend a weaning fayre in your area. This will give you an opportunity to get more information from a Dietician, Health Visitor, Health Improvement Practitioner (Oral Health) and in some areas a Speech Therapist to prepare you for weaning your baby at the appropriate time.


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