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New Infant Feeding Reports Provide Groundwork for Improving the Nation's Baby Feeding Practices

Monday, 19 November 2012

A scientific report published today by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) highlights key recommendations to improve the nation’s baby feeding patterns and nutrition. Scientific Recommendations for a National Infant Feeding Policy in Ireland highlights a number of key concerns with current infant feeding trends and outlines specific actions and advice to improve the nutritional diet of mums-to-be and infants from birth to one year.  The report is based on research into infant feeding practices in Ireland and the latest international scientific opinion. It states that emerging evidence worldwide shows good nutrition during pregnancy and throughout an infant’s first year, can have a significant positive impact on health throughout a person’s life.

The report was launched at an FSAI seminar on Best Practice for Infant Feeding today where delegates were also provided with Best Practice for Infant Feeding - a new guide for healthcare professionals outlining the practicalities of putting best infant feeding guidelines into practice. The development of this guide was one of the key recommendations made by the Expert Working Group* who compiled the scientific report.  The guide – Best Practice for Infant Feeding in Ireland, will be  an invaluable resource for all healthcare professionals who have a role in providing advice to women before they become pregnant and while they are pregnant and, to parents on all aspects of food and nutrition for babies from birth through the first year of life.

According to Dr Mary Flynn, Chief Specialist Public Health Nutrition, FSAI, research into infant feeding in Ireland over the past few years shows that practices are far from ideal.  Ireland has the lowest breast feeding rates in Europe. The weaning of infants from milk to solid food is also found to be an area that needs particular attention as an estimated 71% of babies are being weaned onto solid foods too early.  Of even greater concern, is the use of foods that should never be part of an infant’s diet such as crisps, chocolate pudding and soft drinks which are being given to some babies as young as six months old.   

    “It is now recognised world-wide that the first 1,000 days of a human’s life - starting at conception and ending at age two years, presents a unique opportunity to shape healthier futures.  How well humans grow and develop during this time can have far-reaching effects on health in childhood and throughout adult life.  We now know that health problems (including heart disease, diabetes and obesity) that affect many adults in Ireland today may be partly due to the inadequacy of their mother’s diet during pregnancy and how they were fed as babies – especially during the first year of life.  Infants are not ‘small adults’ and good feeding practice is quite a complex process.”

Ms Ita Saul, Chair of the FSAI Expert Working Group which produced the report, states that breastfeeding has tremendous potential to protect babies’ and mothers’ health – both present and future, and it continues to be the gold standard for infant feeding. 

    “During the first year of life, babies triple their birth weight and double their surface area making this a period of very rapid growth which is never repeated during the lifecycle. More work needs to be done to increase the numbers of babies being breastfed in Ireland today and to improve weaning practices in terms of when solid food is first introduced and what types of foods are used.  Parents in Ireland want, and need, more practical food-based information to cover all stages of infant life.  Healthcare professionals are valued as reliable sources of advice by parents, but they require current information and resources that arm them with the latest in best practice.  This report and, in particular, the practical guide to Best Practice for Infant Feeding in Ireland will be a valuable aide to all  healthcare professionals working in this area,” Ms Saul stated.  

The FSAI states since it first published a report in this area in 1999; new scientific evidence relating to infant feeding has emerged.  In Ireland, breastfeeding rates continue to remain low and this new report provides guidance on how to address new and emerging issues such as the need to supplement all infants from birth with vitamin D to prevent rickets and special guidance on the safe preparation of powdered infant formulae to prevent foodborne illness.   In addition, the spiralling prevalence of childhood obesity - now known to affect toddlers, has its origins in poor infant feeding practices. This new FSAI report (Scientific Recommendations for a National Infant Feeding Policy, 2nd Edition. 2011), and the accompanying guide for healthcare professionals (Best Practice for Infant feeding in Ireland) addresses all of these issues.

The report Scientific Recommendations for a National Infant Feeding Policy, 2nd Edition. 2011 and its practical guidance document Best Practice for Infant Feeding - A Guide for Healthcare Professionals are both freely available from or by contacting the FSAI Advice Line on 1890 336677.


* The Expert Working Group who compiled the Scientific Recommendations for a National Infant Feeding Policy comprised of representatives from all healthcare professions involved in infant feeding in Ireland.