Breastfeeding and Early Years

Breastfeeding and Early Years

This section of the website aims to provide you with information relating to early years, from breastfeeding to pre-school.
From this section of the website you can access information relating to policy and strategy, data, research and surveys, community initiatives, key resources and useful links.

Data and Research

Research shows that breastfeeding provides considerable health benefits for babies and mothers. Breastfeeding is the best way to provide essential nutrients and protective factors for babies in early life. It is recommended that babies have only breast milk for around the first six months of life.
The Infant Feeding Survey is a UK-wide survey carried out on behalf of the four Health Departments of the UK. It was established in 1975 and is conducted every five years. The survey includes basic measurements, such as initial feeding, duration and introduction of solid foods as well as providing a wealth of analyses on the complexities of infant feeding practices. The early results of the Infant Feeding Survey 2010 have been published in 2011.
The early results from the Infant Feeding Survey 2010 found that the initial incidence rate of breastfeeding in Wales was 71%, compared to 83% in England, 74% in Scotland and 64% in Northern Ireland. In Wales this had increased from 67% in 2005. The full survey from 2005 showed that in Wales 37% of mothers were breastfeeding at six weeks and 18% at six months. On a UK level 48% of all mothers were breastfeeding at six weeks and 25% were still breastfeeding at six months. At six months prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding was negligible in all countries (<1%).
Breastfeeding for Longer – What Works? Systematic Review summary.
Evidence on the long-term effects of breastfeeding, World Health Organisation, 2007.

Is baby-led weaning feasible? When do babies first reach out for and eat finger foods? Wright et al, 2010.

Baby-led weaning: transitioning to solid foods at the baby’s own pace. Rapley G, 2011.

UNICEF Report – Preventing Disease and Saving Resources, UNICEF 2012

Policy, Strategy and Guidelines

Investing in a Better Start: Breastfeeding in Wales (2001) -The Breastfeeding Strategy for Wales sets out the long-term strategy to raise the percentage of breastfeeding mothers in Wales. It acknowledges the different contributions to this by different members of the community and encourages them to work together.
World Health Organisation and UNICEF (2003) Global strategy for infant and young child feeding – aims to revitalise efforts to promote, protect and support appropriate infant and young child feeding, building upon past initiatives. It addresses the needs of all children including those living in difficult circumstances, such as infants of mothers living with HIV, low-birth-weight infants and infants in emergency situations.
All Wales Infant Feeding Guidelines – have been developed to provide a reference resource for primary care practitioners across Wales, who provide information and advice on infant feeding.
Food and Health Guidelines Welsh Government has produced a set of guidelines for those working in childcare settings relating to food and health. The guidelines are broken down into easy to use sections, looking at different ages, eating habits, oral health, menu planning, food hygiene, policy and training.
UK Physical Activity Guidelines – give information for stakeholders, early years practitioners and health professionals about the recently released Physical Activity Guidelines for under 5’s.
Eating Well for Under 5’s in Childcare – The Caroline Walker Trust have produced a set of guidelines which give practical and nutritional details for those  caring for children under 5 and producing menu’s for them.

National Initiatives

At a national level there are a number of initiatives taking place to promote and support those working with parents with babies and young children.

Breastfeeding Welcome Scheme

Promoting the cultural acceptance of the importance of breastfeeding in the community underpins the Breastfeeding Welcome Scheme. The scheme has been established by the Welsh Government to identify premises that understand and support the needs of breastfeeding mothers and their babies. The scheme is open to local businesses that provide food or drink, and to hairdressers, shops, libraries and museums, community centres, health centres and anywhere open to the general public. Over 550 premises have already signed up and show their support for breastfeeding mothers by displaying a sign in their windows.  For more information, including a register of Breastfeeding Welcome premises, visit the Breastfeeding Welcome Scheme page of the Welsh Government Website.

UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative in Wales

The UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative provides accreditation to maternity and community health services that have successfully undergone an external assessment. The Initiative provides training for health professionals to enable them to give breastfeeding mothers the help and support they need to breastfeed successfully.
The Welsh Government encourages all NHS hospitals and community health services in Wales to take part in this Initiative. For more information about the initiative go to the Baby Friendly Initiative Wales website.
UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative have developed three new training courses to support the revised Baby Friendly standards on breastfeeding and relationship building for maternity, health visiting and children’s centre staff. Each course addresses the specific learning and development needs required by different groups of staff.

Breastfeeding Volunteer Peer Support Groups

Breastfeeding groups have been established throughout Wales to support mothers to breastfeed. For information on groups, including location, meeting times and contact details go to breastfeeding groups in Wales.
An Agored Cymru qualification has also been developed by the Welsh Government to provide educational credits for breastfeeding peer supporters and ensure that a consistent standard of training can be delivered. Over 130 peer supporters have been trained since 2010 and courses run throughout Wales. For more information please email Welsh Government.
National Breastfeeding Awareness Week took place between 19 and the 26 June 2011. Events took place across Wales with the aim of highlighting the importance of breastfeeding for the health of both babies and their mothers.

Healthy Start UK

Healthy Start is a UK-wide government scheme to improve the health of low-income pregnant women and families on benefits and tax credits. Eligible families receive free vouchers which can be spent on milk, plain fresh or frozen fruit and vegetables and infant formula milk. Free vitamin supplements are also available and the scheme promotes breastfeeding. For more information visit the Healthy Start website.


Start4Life is a sister brand of Change4Life focussing on the first year of a babies’ life. Start4Life communicates 6 key behaviours designed to build healthy habits from day one:
  1. Mum’s milk – breast milk has health benefits for mother and baby
  2. Every day counts – each day and week breastfeeding continues it builds up to protect baby against infections and strengthens their ability to fight disease
  3. No rush to mush – weaning baby at the right time (around 6 months) is important for baby’s health – there are three signs that baby is ready
  4. Taste for Life – a variety of food now may prevent fussy eating later
  5. Sweet as they are – tips to avoid baby getting a sweet tooth
  6. Baby moves – why it’s important for baby to be active and ideas for active play.
The partners and supporters sections include downloadable resources covering breastfeeding, weaning, healthy snacks and others.


The Change4Life Early Years Toolkit 1-4 is part of a social marketing campaign encouraging people to Eat Well, Move More, Live longer. It has a range of resources directed at parents and those working with young children which give user friendly information on how to incorporate healthy eating and active play into families’ routines. The toolkit includes Change4Life (C4L) – Guide for local supporters, C4L Flying Start Poster, C4L Let’s Play worksheet, C4L Ready, Steady, Go, and a C4L Colouring worksheet.

Designed to Smile

Designed to Smile is a national Oral Health programme to improve the dental health of children in Wales. It is funded by the Welsh Government and was initially launched on the 30th January 2009 in both North and South Wales.
The programme has a number of elements covering children, birth to eleven years old;
  • A preventative programme for children from birth to 3 years in which pilots are being established working with a wide range of professionals who work with young children. The aim is to give good consistent advice to parents, to provide toothbrushes and paste and encourage going to the dentist. As part of the programme healthy, tooth friendly snacks and drinks are promoted along with appropriate use of bottles, cups and dummies.
  • A school/nursery based tooth brushing programme – for children in pre-school settings through to year 2 in primary school, helping establish good habits early on. The promotion of good habits is combined with the application of fissure sealants and fluoride varnish.
  • For more information and local contact details please visit the Designed to Smile website.

Free Milk Scheme

In Wales, primary school age children can have free milk at Key Stage 1 and subsidised milk at Key Stage 2, if their schools participate in the school milk scheme. Milk provided to pupils at Key Stage 1 is free in Wales, when schools participate in the school milk scheme. The European Community pays a subsidy, and the Welsh Government pays a top up subsidy, which allows free milk to be offered to Key Stage 1 pupils. For more information please visit the Welsh Goverment website.

Healthy and Sustainable Pre-school Scheme

The Healthy and Sustainable Pre-school Scheme has been developed as an extension of  the Welsh Network of Healthy Schools Scheme and the criteria have clear parallels with  the WNHSS National Quality Award. The scheme aims to actively promote health and wellbeing within the whole pre-school setting community and support settings to achieve the award. Aspects covered include Nutrition and Oral Health, Physical Activity / Active Play, Mental and Emotional Health, Wellbeing and Relationships, Environment, Safety, Hygiene and Workplace Health and Wellbeing. The scheme is open to non-maintained settings across Wales. For more information, please contact your Development Organisation and/or Healthy Schools Coordinator.

Agored Cymru Community Food and Nutrition Skills for the Early Years

Courses run across Wales by Community Dietitians for practitioners working with young children. This 5 or 6 session course focuses on key areas of nutrition applicable to those working with infants and young children and gives more in depth knowledge on topics such as menu planning, infant feeding, food refusal along with general healthy eating messages and how these need to be adapted for young children.

Local Initiatives

MEND 2-4

MEND 2-4 is a healthy lifestyle programme for children aged 2-4 and their parents and carers. Sessions combine crèche style activities for children whilst parents learn about healthy eating and portion sizes. Parents and children then have an opportunity to have fun together during active play. Sessions run for 90 minutes once a week for 10 weeks.
It currently runs in the Torfaen area. For more information go to the MEND website or contact Jocelyne Jones on 01633 647420.


HENRY aims to tackle childhood obesity by helping community and health practitioners enhance their knowledge, skills and confidence when working in the key lifestyle areas:
  • parenting and relationship skills
  • healthy eating
  • eating patterns
  • physical activity
  • emotional well-being
The prime focus is to support those who work with parents and carers of babies, toddlers and preschool children.

Key Resources:

Please find below a list of key resources relating to early years. For more resources please visit the Physical Activity and Nutrition Network for Wales Resources Database.
Birth to five resource – The Public Health and Health Professions department (PHHPD) provides Birth to Five free to mothers in Wales. It is based on the Department of Health publication revised and updated for Wales, and is bilingual. Birth to Five includes information on the first weeks with a new baby, growth and development, learning and playing, habits and behaviour, feeding your child, illness and accidents, mothers’ health, services, rights and benefits.
‘From Bump to Breastfeeding’ – This DVD has been produced by child health charity Best Beginnings, with funding from the Welsh Government and the other UK Health Departments. It gives information about breastfeeding by showing the real experiences of mothers with their new babies, sharing their happy times as well as the challenges they faced. DVD’s are distributed via maternity units in Wales.
Llaeth Mam is the quarterly newsletter published by the Welsh Government and provides news about breastfeeding in Wales.
Breastfeeding and Returning to Work  is the title of a leaflet published by the Welsh Government to provide information for mothers wishing to continue breastfeeding when they return to work. It outlines the simple ways that employers can help to ensure they retain valuable staff, support breastfeeding and gain a clearer understanding of their duties to staff. Health professionals will be distributing these leaflets to pregnant women and new mothers.
Building Blocks for a Better Start in Life is a Start4Life publication available from Welsh Government. It gives information on how parents and carers can give their baby a better start in life by providing a healthy diet from the beginning coupled with incorporating active play into a babies’ day.
Weaning Your Child – Getting Started is a factsheet from the British Dietetic Association containing information about when to wean and the first foods a baby should eat.
Introducing Solid Food is the 3rd Start4Life publication – it gives tips about weaning and healthy snacks along with other important messages such as what to do if a baby is choking.
Ready, Steady, Go! Is available from Welsh Government and is a Change4Life booklet focussing on 1-5 year olds. It gives helpful information on issues, which often cause concern to parents of young children such as meal times, portion sizes, healthy snacks and being active.
Food a Fact of Life – These resources have been developed to help young children learn about healthy eating, cooking and where food comes from. They are in the form of food-based sessions and healthy eating, cooking and where food comes from, activity sessions.
Food and Active Fun for Tiny Tots – This resource consists of two parts. A pack of wipe clean activity cards for use with children in early years settings and practitioner handbook, available as a hard copy from your Umbrella Organisation. A simplified downloadable resource for practitioners to use with parents / carers of pre-school age children for use in the home is available here. Activities are either food or active play based, are themed into seasons and indicate if the activity is for indoor or outdoor play.
Adventures in Foodland is a bilingual resource developed by Welsh Government consisting of food play activities. For more information please contact your Umbrella Organisation.
Food and Health Guidelines Welsh Government has produced a set of guidelines for those working in childcare settings relating to food and health. The guidelines are broken down into easy to use sections, looking at different ages, eating habits, oral health, menu planning, food hygiene, policy and training.

The CHEW pictorial resources have been produced to provide a simple guide to different meals, snacks and drinks that, on average, provide the amount of energy and other nutrients that infants and children need. They contain information about eating well, photos of example meals and snacks and recipes, and contain a book and CD ROM. Resources are available for The First Year of Life and 1-4 year olds.

Play to Learn developed by Sport Wales has been designed to improve physical development and creative movement skills for 3-7 year olds. While the focus is on movement, Play to Learn has also been designed to help children with literacy and numeracy. Resources are for use both in childcare settings and by parents in the home.

Useful Links