The first years of a child’s life are recognised as a key time for supporting optimal growth and development, as outlined in campaigns such as the first 1000 days of life (from conception to a child’s second birthday).
What are infants requirements in the first 6 months?
Breastfeeding is the best form of nutrition for infants and exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for the first 6 months (26 weeks) of life as it provides all the nutrients a baby needs, Department of Health, 2003. As highlighted in Unicef’s Baby Friendly Initiative, mothers should be encouraged and supported to continue breastfeeding her infant beyond the age of 6 months, even if she is returning to work and putting her infant into childcare.
Where mothers cannot, or choose not to, breastfeed, breastmilk substitutes are available. Which ones should mums choose? Unless their doctor or health visitor gives different advice, first infant formula is the only type of formula baby needs until they are one year old. When baby is one year old, they can start to drink whole cows’ milk.
Whether mum is breastfeeding or formula feeding it is important to make snuggling up and feeding baby a special time. It is a time when mum/dad and baby can bond with each other. You can also have skin-to skin contact while you are bottle feeding. If you and your partner try and give most of the feeds yourselves, this will help build up a close and loving bond with your baby. Skin-to-skin contact helps baby feel safe, secure and warm.
What are the requirements after 6 months?
Around 6 months infants should be introducing to solid foods alongside their usual breast milk or formula milk feeds. Between the ages of 6-12 months, infants are encouraged to experience a wide variety of minimally processed foods and different tastes and textures so that in the second year, and beyond, they eat and enjoy healthy family foods.
What can you do as an early years setting to support parents?
- It is important that your setting has an Infant Feeding Policy for guidance on the preparation, use and storage of breastmilk and infant formula
- It would be great to promote that you are a breastfeeding friendly setting e.g. by displaying posters, door stickers
- It is also important to ensure you have a policy that outlines how you safely store and warm expressed breastmilk as well as having a policy that outlines how you safely prepare and store formula milk
- It is also important that mums have a comfortable area to feed their babies
- Provide parents with evidence based advice on when and how to introduce solid foods.
What resources are available to pass to parents?
- Visit the Unicef- Baby Friendly Initiative website for ideas and support around what should be included in your Infant Feeding Policy
- ‘Off to the Best Start’ is a practical booklet that provides families with information and tips to support them in feeding their babies
- The ‘Guide to Bottle Feeding’ is a practical booklet that provides families with information and tips to support them in feeding their babies
- The First Steps Nutrition website have an excellent resource for families where they can access different recipe ideas
- You can book on to the Wellbeing and Nutrition team in house training Food and Nutrition For Infants for more information on all of the above topics. The training will cover breastfeeding, introduction of solid foods, how to convey key messages to families and much more.
When: Monday the 5th of February 2018
Time: 9.30 am to 1.00pm
Where: Shrewsbury Centre, 2 Shrewsbury Road, London E7 8AL
Please let us know if you would like more detailed blogs on any of the above topics in the coming weeks. Please share your feedback in our comments sections!
By Edwina Revel