Infant and child nutrition

children nutrition

Infant and child nutrition

What is the issue?

Infancy and childhood are periods of rapid growth and development, and nutrition is especially important during this time. However, studies show that across Europe, the diets of many children aren’t providing a healthy balance of all the nutrients they need.

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Why is it important?

As a leading provider of food products for infants, we’re in a position to make a contribution to children’s health by developing a better understanding of the quality of the diet in the markets where we operate and the nutritional value of food and drink we give infants and young children.


  • In progress
  • By 2016: Launch large-scale children’s nutrition research projects in at least 10 countries globally to inform our own product and service development.

Contributing to the healthy development of children.


Better and more nutritional products through research and development.

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What are we doing about it?

We seek to develop a deeper understanding of the dietary intake, lifestyle and health status of children through large-scale research projects. The results of our studies help define our product formulation, consumer communication and educational programmes.

Through bodies such as the Nestlé Research Centre we carry out pioneering scientific research into the nutritional value of food and drink, including children’s nutrition. To improve access to knowledge among the wider health and nutrition community, we share our findings with health professionals and scientists around the world via the educational Nestlé Nutrition Institute.

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Analysing the nutritional value of milk for young children

In 2015, Nestlé Nutrition UK&I commissioned a study comparing the quality of diet depending on the main milk consumed by young children in the UK aged between 12 and 18 months (whole cow’s milk or fortified milk).

The study analysed data from the UK Diet and Nutrition Survey of Infants and Young Children (DNSIYC) (1) undertaken in 2011, which is a survey of 2,683 UK infants and young children aged 4–18 months. Results from the survey suggest that diet quality changes after 12 months of age, with a decline in consumption of micronutrient-fortified foods and milks, and an increase in consumption of foods high in energy, and in fat, sugar and salt (2).

The analysis showed that each type of milk has different nutritional benefits, and that young children consuming fortified milk were more likely to meet their needs for iron and vitamin D. The average intake of iron, zinc, vitamin A and vitamin D was significantly higher for those infants drinking fortified milk. In contrast, the average daily intake of energy, protein, calcium, iodine, sodium and saturated fat were significantly higher in the cow’s milk group. The children consuming fortified milk also had improved iron and vitamin D status.

The findings show that whole cow’s milk is a healthy, nutrient-rich food for young children. However, fortified milk can be a beneficial alternative, providing key micronutrients without raising protein and energy intakes excessively(3).

Tackling iron deficiency

Iron deficiency (ID) and iron deficiency anaemia (IDA) in infants are global public health concerns. These conditions affect infants worldwide, particularly those in low and middle-income families. Studies have shown that ID and IDA affect long-term neurodevelopment, and the effects could be irreversible.

In 2015, Nestlé Nutrition carried out a comprehensive review of all relevant strategies available to prevent these conditions in 6-12 month infants and aimed to compare the effectiveness of several of these strategies.

The review showed that iron-fortified milk consumption significantly reduced the prevalence of these conditions. Fortified milk was shown to be the most effective method of maintaining iron status in infants and preventing these conditions.

Read the review.

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What’s next?

We will continue to raise awareness on the importance of nutrition from the very start of life, and throughout childhood. This includes continuing to encourage mothers to eat a balanced diet while pregnant and to exclusively breastfeed (if possible) during their baby’s first six months. We will also ensure that our products play a role in helping to meet a child’s nutritional needs once complementary foods are introduced.

For older children, we will continue to tailor our products to meet their nutritional needs including micronutrient fortification to address dietary insufficiency.


1. Lennox A, Sommerville J & Ong K (2013). Diet and Nutrition Survey of Infants and Young Children, 2011. Public Health England, London.
2. Gibson S and Sidnell A. Nutrient imbalance in 1-3 year old children. Nutrition Bulletin.
3. ESPGHAN 2015 Poster PO-N-0388. Nutrient and energy intakes vary depending on the predominant type of milk fed to children aged 12–18 months in the United Kingdom: secondary analysis of data from the Diet and Nutrition Survey of Infants and Young Children (DNSIYC) Anne Sidnell, Sandrine Pigat, Rosalyn O'Connor et al.