Healthy child programme

Health Visiting (Early Help Service 0 to 19)

Providing children will the best start in life is an important role for the NHS. You can find information here about how to provide a healthy start for your child.

This section of our website provides information about family health including:


Breast milk serves the unique needs of a baby for the first six months and for two years and beyond, following the introduction of suitable weaning foods, as it is nutritionally balanced with the perfect amount of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals to help your baby grow.

Breast milk also contains antibodies that help protect your baby from infection and changes to suit the different needs of your baby as it grows.

Breastfeeding provides your baby with the best start in life. It contributes to the health of both mother and child in the short and long term.

Breastfeeding benefits mothers by:

  • It promotes closeness and bonding with your child which can be satisfying and relaxing
  • It strengthens bones and prevents osteoporosis
  • It lowers the risk of developing ovarian or breast cancer
  • It increases the likelihood of returning to pre-pregnancy weight
  • There are no bottles to prepare and your milk is there as soon as your baby needs it
  • And it’s free!

Breastfeeding benefits babies by:

  • It protects against diarrhoea, constipation, gastro-intestinal, urine, ear and chest infections
  • It reduces the risk of diabetes, eczema, asthma and improves digestive health
  • It lessens the risk of being an obese later in life
  • It can lower blood pressure and total cholesterol
  • It makes nappies less smelly
  • And it is the only food designed by nature for your baby containing all the right nutrients which changes as your baby grows to suite its needs.

Mothers who are unable, or choose not, to breastfeed should discuss other options, with their Midwife or GP, while pregnant. It is important for mothers who do not breastfeed to get information and support on the nutritional needs of their baby as infant formula does not provide the same nutrients and antibodies as breast milk.

Changing from bottle to breastfeeding is difficult and it is therefore best to think about feeding your baby in advance. Whatever method of feeding you choose, your Midwife, Health Visitor, or Breastfeeding Peer Supporter can explain how to do it.

Your health, your choices… NHS Choices provides the pregnancy care planner and information on birth to five.

People on certain benefits can get free vouchers with Healthy Start which you can swap for milk fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables and infant formula, and Healthy Start vitamins for you and you child.

Infant formula milk can be used as an alternative to breast milk as it is deigned to provide the right levels of nutrition needed. It usually comes in powder form and consists of processed, skimmed cows’ milk, treated so that babies can digest it.

You will need about six bottles and teats so that is at least one or two bottles clean and sterilised and ready to use. NHS Choices recommend buying new teats and bottles. You should also make sure all bottles and teats are in good condition.

There are a variety of factors that influence a woman’s decision to breastfeed or bottle feed her baby. Before choosing to breastfeed or bottle feed your baby you should talk to your Midwife or Health Visitor about both options. If you decide to bottle feed your baby using formula milk, it is particularly important that you receive professional advice.

The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommends breast milk on its own for the first six months and to continue for two years and beyond provides all the unique nutrients a baby needs for physical and mental growth.

Six months is the recommended age to start introducing solids to your baby and you should carry on bottle feeding or breastfeeding beyond the first six months alongside solid food. For more information speak to your Midwife or Health visitor.

Although formula milk contains vitamins you may be advised by your Midwife, Health Visitor or Doctor to give your baby vitamin drops from the age of six months especially if they’re drinking less than 500ml of formula milk a day. Vitamins are available as part of the Healthy Start Scheme.