Someone is clearly listening to my rants about the importance of maternal and infant nutrition (OK, maybe not MY rants)…
For a long while we have known the extreme importance that early nutrition plays on the long-term health of our children. A mother’s nutritional status before, during and after conception influences her child’s health, wellbeing and even their risk of disease development.
A child’s direct nutrition exposure also has consequences for their long-term health and risk of diseases as an adult. This highlights how significant and influential Early Years nutrition experiences are, and how important they are to get right!
In my opinion, expectant mothers and new mums should ALL have the right to access information, educational resources and support on feeding themselves and their children as early on as possible. Unfortunately that doesn’t always happen, and more often than not, advice doesn’t seem to be getting through.
A classic example of this is one with the Government’s own Healthy Start Scheme. Our Government recommends that all children between the age of one and five years of age should be taking vitamin supplements containing vitamins A, D and C, everyday. This is a message that the Government has been promoting for a number of years. However, analysis from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (2008–2011) and the Diet and Nutrition Survey of Infants and Young Children (2011) suggest that only 9-11% of children are receiving the recommended supplements.
However, in a more positive move, NICE (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) have updated their guidelines on improving Maternal and Child Nutrition, which includes some important “quality statements”:
Statement 1. Pregnant women attending antenatal and health visitor appointments are given advice on how to eat healthily in pregnancy.
Statement 2. Women with a BMI of 30 or more after childbirth are offered a structured weight‑loss programme.
Statement 3. Pregnant women and the parents and carers of children under 4 years who may be eligible for the Healthy Start scheme are given information and support to apply.
Statement 4. Women receive breastfeeding support from a service that uses an evaluated, structured programme.
Statement 5. Parents and carers are given advice on introducing their baby to a variety of nutritious foods to complement breastmilk or formula milk.
Statement 6. Parents and carers receiving Healthy Start food vouchers are offered advice on how to use them to increase the amount of fruit and vegetables in their family’s diet.
These guidelines are a great start. I’m not sure how the Government is planning to roll them out though…let’s watch this space!
For more reading on this topic: