How can I help address inequalities and support nutrition in 0-3s?

How can I help address inequalities and support nutrition in 0-3s?

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Key messages for parents, grandparents and other care-givers

Parents and other care givers can be encouraged to support good nutrition in 0-3s by promoting the following key messages:

  • Mothers, carers and their children may be eligible for free vitamins and vouchers for milk, infant formula, fresh or frozen fruit and vegetables - for more information visit the Healthy Start website (external link).
  • Offering a wide range of family foods, appropriately prepared for infants, helps establish a healthy, balanced diet.
  • Children who see their parents, grandparents and carers following a healthy lifestyle tend to develop the same good habits.

Breastfeeding

  • Breastfeeding is best for baby and is a complete source of food and drink for baby up until six months of age.
  • Breast fed babies are less likely to have many illnesses, including vomiting and diarrhoea, chest, urine and ear infections, wheezing, aetopic dermatitis, diabetes in childhood and obesity.  There is also a plausible relationship between breastfeeding and a reduction in asthma and leukemia. 
  • Breastfed babies tend to gain weight more quickly in the first few months and then slow down - this is a normal pattern.
  • At 1-year-old, breastfed babies are leaner and healthier than formula-fed babies.
  • Breastfeeding helps protect mothers from ovarian cancer and breast cancer.
  • Breastfeeding can help mothers return more quickly to their pre-pregnancy weight and avoid health problems associated with being overweight or obese.
  • A mother's right to breastfeed her baby in public places is protected by law in Scotland.
  • Solid foods should only be introduced from six months.

Weaning

  • After six months, only milk (breastmilk, formula or cow's milk) and boiled, cooled water should be offered to drink.
  • Using a free-flow cup for drinks (rather than a feeding bottle) helps protect teeth.
  • Sugary foods and those high in salt should be avoided.
  • Mash food or cut into small pieces to use as finger foods - there is no need to puree first foods.
  • Introducing lumpy foods, different textures and different tastes, between six and ten months helps prevent later feeding problems (e.g. fussiness).  It is important to avoid foods that may cause chocking – see Fun First Foods.

Parents who are worried about their child's weight or growth and development, encourage them to seek help early - speak to their Health Visitor or GP.

Advice for mothers on breastfeeding can be found in Off To a Good Start (external link).

Advice and recipe ideas for weaning can be found in Fun First Foods (external link).

In addition, parents and carers should:

  • encourage children to help prepare snacks and meals
  • avoid too many fried foods and after the age of 2 years gradually move to more baked, boiled or steamed foods
  • avoid fast foods and takeaways that are high in fat and salt
  • use smaller plates for smaller portions and smaller tummies
  • have regular sit-down meals together as often as possible
  • change sugary drinks to water or milk. Diluted pure fruit juice can be included as part of a meal
  • change playtime snacks from biscuits, sweets and crisps to healthier options, such as fruit, a small sandwich or breadsticks
  • encourage children to make healthy choices by explaining what makes one choice better than another
  • involve children and young people with food shopping to give them responsibility for making healthy choices
  • avoid using food as a reward. Stickers, colouring-in and fun ‘active’ games can be used as a reward for children.

Please see below for further resources.

Setting the Table - revised guidance (external link)

Oral Health and Nutrition guidance for professionals (external link)

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Nursery school staff and childminders

In addition to promoting the messages for parents and carers given above:

  • Familiarise yourself with Setting the Table - revised guidance (external link).
  • Ensure your facility meets National Care Standards (external link) in relation to early years food and nutrition, in particular:
    • National Care Standard 3.3 - Children and young people have opportunities to learn about healthy lifestyles and relationships, hygiene, diet and personal safety.
    • National Care Standard 3.4 - Children and young people have access to a well-balanced and healthy diet (where food is provided) - which takes account of ethnic, cultural and dietary requirements, including food allergies.
  • Organise regular, sit-down snack and mealtimes to ensure all children get a chance eat and drink, to see other children eating, to try new foods and develop good table habits and social skills.
  • Discuss any issues encountered around foods you have offered or any problematic behaviours around food and eating with parents.
  • Discuss the foods children have tried while in your care with parents and carers.
  • Discuss any food-related activities you have undertaken with a child with parents and carers - research shows that teacher-led classroom based activities supported by parent-led activities in the home are most effective in supporting healthy eating knowledge and habits among children.

Please also see below for further resources.

Midwives, health visitors, GPs, practice nurses and social workers

Midwives, health visitors, GPs, practice nurses and social workers are ideally placed to develop trusting, respectful communicative relationships with parents.  Research shows that these relationships are valued by parents.

Research also shows that support from appropriately trained and knowledgeable health professionals is effective in promoting safe and healthy breast and formula feeding, good weaning practices and health eating.

In addition, local health board health promotion departments should be able to identify local opportunities for parents to improve their food skills and access to healthy foodstuffs, for example cookery classes, community food co-ops and box schemes.

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Service managers and commissioners

Service managers and commissioners can help by:

  • ensuring childcare facilities adhere to National Care Standards (external link) in relation to early years food and nutrition, in particular:
    • National Care Standard 3.3 - Children and young people have opportunities to learn about healthy lifestyles and relationships, hygiene, diet and personal safety.
    • National Care Standard 3.4 - Children and young people have access to a well-balanced and healthy diet (where food is provided) - which takes account of ethnic, cultural and dietary requirements, including food allergies.
  • ensuring staff who work with pregnant mothers and parents and carers are appropriately trained to:
  • promote breastfeeding and support and advise breastfeeding mothers
  • promote safe and healthy formula feeding and weaning practices.

  • ensuring staff who work with pregnant mothers and parents and carers have the time and resources to explain any advice given
  • ensuring that only healthy snacks, meals and drinks are offered in facilities where children eat
  • ensuring healthy lifestyle information is available to all
  • displaying and distributing resources such as Off To a Good Start (external link) and Fun First Foods (external link).

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Voluntary sector workers and managers

Voluntary sector agencies and workers can:

  • emphasise the benefits of breastfeeding and the importance of safe and healthy weaning practices to all mums to be, parents and carers
  • encourage and support eligible families to apply for vitamins and vouchers from the Healthy Start programme (external link)
  • emphasise the importance of healthy eating to all parents
  • only offer healthy snacks, meals and drinks
  • ensure staff are appropriately trained and have the time to explain healthy eating, breastfeeding and safe and healthy weaning advice
  • where possible, provide opportunities for children and parents to taste new foods and prepare foods.

Setting the Table: Nutritional guidance and Food Standards for Early Years Childcare Providers in Scotland (2014)

This guidance has been developed to help Early Years childcare providers to meet the Scottish Government ‘National Care Standards: Early Education and Childcare up to the age of 16’ (2009). It also highlights the importance of nutrition in the early years and the role that childcare providers have in shaping both current and future eating patterns in young children in Scotland.

The early years workforce in childcare and school settings is particularly well placed to help children develop an appreciation for a wide variety of foods, encourage active play and help them avoid sugary foods that harm teeth.

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