Food for thought

Pharmacists are often a mother’s first port of call with feeding problems

We provide a digest of the latest news and advice on feeding infants and children

The birth rate in England and Wales increased by 0.4 per cent in 2015, following a decline over the previous few years. The trend for women to have children later in life continues, contributing to the shrinking family size; the average woman now has her children after the age of 30 and has only 1.8 offspring.

Despite the slowing birth rate, the baby food, drink and milk market continues to flourish, with values up 6.3 per cent and volumes rising 1.1 per cent in 2015. Baby milk continues to dominate, growing in both value and volume sales and share. This continues the trend seen in recent years, with rising prices helping to drive values. Strong advertising of follow-on milk (accounting for more than 90 per cent of spend in the market in 2015) is helping to support sales.

Breastfeeding advice

Breastfeeding is one of the few positive health behaviours more common in poor countries than rich ones, according to a report in The Lancet. In low-income countries, most infants are still breastfed at one year, compared with less than 20 per cent in many high-income countries and less than one per cent in the UK. Women avoid or stop breastfeeding for various reasons, but they include physical discomfort and inconvenience. Without the right support, many mothers turn to formula milk instead.

Public Health England recently released new guidance for ensuring quality local infant feeding services, to encourage women to breastfeed for longer and maximise the amount of breastmilk a baby receives. Independent community pharmacies are ideally placed to offer advice, support and relevant products.

“Being ready to give advice on common infant-care issues, as well as referring mums to appropriate services when necessary, can be the kind of caring service that has mums coming back for years to come,” says Nick Lang, Infacol senior brand manager.

“Even in the digital age, the value of word-of-mouth recommendations should not be underestimated. Community pharmacies can provide a lifeline for new mums and dads when they are navigating the challenges of becoming a parent for the first time. Sometimes listening is all that’s needed.”

According to Maureen Minchin, author of ‘Milk Matters: infant feeding and immune disorder’, pharmacists need to stay up to date with breastfeeding matters. “Pharmacists are often a mother’s first port of call with feeding problems,” she says. “Pharmacists could partner with local breastfeeding groups, keep their materials on hand, and refer mothers to them, as well as providing a safe comfortable space in their premises where mothers can breastfeed without embarrassment. Many mothers need expert reassurance to continue breastfeeding despite taking many common drugs.”

Formula choice

According to the PHE guidance, 76 per cent of all babies have had formula milk by the age of six weeks and all women who bottle- feed need to know how to do so safely and effectively. Pharmacists are ideally placed to advise parents on choosing a formula milk to suit their baby’s needs.

Kendal-based pharmaceutical research company Kendal Nutricare is now working in partnership with the NHS supply chain to make Kendamil whole-milk infant formula more widely available around the UK. “By giving customers the option to try this British alternative to the big, imported brands, independent pharmacies can be seen to be offering a wider choice than the supermarkets and big chains, and keeping nutrition at the forefront of their buying decisions,” says Ross McMahon, chief executive of Kendal Nutricare.

“Kendamil formula contains all the nutritional benefits of cow’s milk, including high levels of calcium and protein, as well as essential vitamins and minerals, 18 amino acids, the pre-biotic GOS (galacto-oligosaccharides) and essential and fatty acids Omega-3 and 6. Our new ‘Kendamil Kosher Infant Formula’ and our goat’s milk formula – ‘Bia land’ – may also be appreciated by independent pharmacies seeking to satisfy a niche market.”

According to Claire Magee, managing director of NANNYcare, research shows that 47 per cent of mothers switch formulas because their baby is unsettled as a result of minor digestive disorders such as colic and reflux. “There has been an increase in the number of babies who do not thrive on standard formulas, which is highlighted by the range of specialist milks that is now available,” she says. “This offers a genuine opportunity for pharmacies, complementing their role as a provider of healthcare advice and remedies.”

Healthcare advice

Colic affects around one in five babies. It can be caused by a temporary sensitivity to lactose, the sugar found in milk, and is common as a baby’s digestive system develops.

Colief recently launched a free CPD module on colic aimed at healthcare professionals. Developed from Royal Pharmaceutical Society-approved materials, The Management of Infantile Colic module can be accessed by HCPs through the Mum & Baby Academy website at the-management-of-infantile-colic.

“Colic can be deeply distressing for both parent and child,” says Sharon Skelton, general manager, Europe, at Colief manufacturer Crosscare. “We are confident that this new online training module will prove to be a valuable learning tool.” The free module is aimed at healthcare professionals with a particular interest
in baby health, including health visitors, midwives, GPs and pharmacists. Additional resources on the site include a video covering key information on colic and giving tips that can be shared with parents.

Teething is another common babycare issue that pharmacists can advise on. Products include baby teething gels, cold teething rings, hard plastic devices, and homeopathic and herbal products such
as Ashton & Parsons Infants’ Powders and Nelson’s Teetha. Christopher Blincoe, director of Bickiepegs Healthcare, says 65 per cent of parents ask a healthcare professional for advice on teething. “Many plastic devices are the wrong shape or size, so just allow front biting,” he continues. “Bickiepegs satisfy baby’s discomfort by providing a hard surface on which to cut teeth and provide exercise for the jaw, which develops muscles and chewing skills.”


All parents should know when and how to introduce weaning foods in a timely manner. Weaning should begin when a baby is six months old and include a variety of foods to provide a balanced diet, rich in a broad range of nutrients.

With one in five children already overweight or obese before they start school, tackling childhood obesity is
a government priority. Children are consuming too many calories, and especially too much sugar. The PHE’s sugar reduction programme aims to reduce the sugar content of product ranges explicitly targeted at babies and young children.

Homemade food continues to dominate usage, offering parents a cheaper way to feed their baby, according to Mintel.

Forty-five per cent of parents like to have control over the ingredients, and almost half like their child to eat the same food as the rest of the family. But not all homemade food meets babies’ specific nutritional requirements.

Research published online in the Archives of Disease in Childhood revealed that home-cooked meals are not always better than commercially available baby foods. While they are usually significantly cheaper, their energy density and total fat content are often too high. Home-cooked meals included a greater variety of vegetables than readymade meals, but commercial products contained a greater vegetable variety per meal, averaging three compared with two for home-cooked recipes.


Down in the mouth


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