Infant food insecurity - responding and preventing: guide

Following discussions in June 2023, we committed to forming a short life working group to develop emergency integrated pathways for families in Scotland with an infant that may face food insecurity and what is available locally to them in an emergency. This toolkit forms a guide for local areas.

Purpose of this toolkit

The aim of this toolkit is to provide a supportive resource to aid local agencies, front line workers and volunteers in supporting families with infants with money worries, including those who are struggling to afford infant formula, before and at crisis point. This resource will help guide agencies and staff to provide support which is appropriate to the needs of these families, taking a cash first approach through providing cash payments or cash equivalents (such as shopping cards). This should be provided alongside advice and support to maximise income and, if immediate support is required, access to infant formula milk (powdered or ready-to-drink) or breastfeeding support, for as long as it is needed.

It has been developed to support cross-sector teams within individual localities to ensure there are robust and accessible routes for parents and carers struggling with food insecurity to feed their infants. The content should build on and be integrated into existing work, pathways and sources of support and wider approaches to tackling poverty, prioritising the needs of families facing financial hardship and money worries. Infants have unique nutritional needs and the timing and frequency of receiving the food they require must be met to avoid causing serious health and wellbeing harm in the short and long term.[3]

There is limited data available to show the scale of this issue.[4] However, there is evidence of the proportionately higher numbers of families with young children experiencing poverty[5] and approaching or being referred to food banks and baby banks for help.[6] [7] [8] Families in crisis do not always reach out for early help or may wait until they can no longer cope to seek support due to feelings of shame, stigma or they just do not know where to go for this help.

Communications and actions should reflect three key principles of dignity, respect and choice. We know that families with young children who are in urgent need or distress may feel judged or blamed if they cannot feed their children. These resources are aimed to improve communications with families and between services, to ensure that no baby in Scotland is left without the food they need to grow and thrive.

Exclusively breastfed babies do not need formula milk but the family may need support in other ways to protect breastfeeding and support the mother to continue breastfeeding.[9] Local NHS Infant Feeding Teams should be included in signposting› Where a baby is fed through a combination of breastfeeding and formula, maximising breastfeeding through sustainable support is as important as providing routes to purchasing infant formula. This includes supporting the mother to afford and access nutritious food, and providing access to breastfeeding support and advice where needed.

We use the term baby and infant under 12 months throughout this document. A baby who is formula fed and under 12 months will only require infant formula in the first year of life. Infant formula is the only alternative to breastmilk in the first six months. After 12 months of age, they can then move onto Cow’s milk or a suitable alternative.



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