Encouraging a ‘Big Conversation’ around Early Life Nutrition


Although many policy makers acknowledge that good nutrition in early life is important, it is still not seen as a top priority to achieve in practice. Many have been less engaged in children’s nutritional needs in the early years, focusing instead on supporting young children’s educational and social development.

At Danone Nutricia Early Life Nutrition we want to play our part in securing better outcomes in early life. As a nutrition company, we take our responsibility to provide nutritious, age appropriate foods and practical information to families, carers and professionals very seriously. Beyond this, we want to understand what works and doesn’t work in reality for parents and their children and why – and how, alongside the professionals and experts, we can work together to make it better.

To explore this area, Danone Nutricia commissioned BritainThinks, one of the pioneers of deliberative research in the UK, to conduct a daylong event which brought 60 parents, carers and professionals together in Birmingham in June 2014 to share their experiences face to face.

We came away from the discussion with some valuable insights about how the barriers to good early life nutrition present themselves in everyday lives. These are captured in a report available to download below. Crucially our participants were often able to identify actions they or others could undertake to address specific, immediate, obstacles but less able to identify ways to tackle longer term underlying problems.

Our report also raises some pressing questions – in particular the lack of confidence around a clear ‘what is good for us’ goal for early life nutrition that parents feel is attainable and applicable to their lives. With a number of different people caring, shopping for and feeding young children in today’s society, a single common vision and sense of purpose regarding early life nutrition is more important than ever.

Key insights:

  • Parents often feel pushed into making affordable food choices, rather than the choices that are right for them and their families
  • Information overload leaves parents confused and uncertain so they feel paralysed to act or just ‘muddle through’
  • Eating patterns are often unstructured with people eating more frequently & possibly less healthily
  • Responsibility for feeding a young child is often shared between several adults and in different childcare settings and parents find it hard to provide consistency in what and how their children are fed.

Key questions for policymakers to address:

  • How can we help parents and carers build their confidence so they feel they can achieve the ‘good for us goal’ either for themselves or for their children?
  • How can we better take into account that caring for, shopping and feeding young children is now the responsibility of more than just parents?
  • How should we help parents and carers overcome non-food (as well as food) barriers, which make it difficult for them to provide good early life nutrition?
  • How can we offer parents and carers a trusted guide and partner to help them make the right choices in parenting and in nutrition?

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Download the Big Conversation Report