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Diet and nutrition survey of infants and young children

Baby eating
Published: March 2013


We conducted this survey to provide detailed information on the food consumption, nutrient intakes and nutritional status of infants and young children across the UK.

The information is used to measure whether advice and recommendations are being followed, and to underpin the Department of Health’ s (DH) work on promoting healthy diets and protecting consumer's rights.


DH recommends exclusive breastfeeding for around the first six months of a child’s life:

  • More than one in five infants (22%) had never been breastfed. Of those who were, 57% were not breastfed beyond three months.
  • Three quarters (75%) were weaned before five months.
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  • Nearly one third (32%) of four to six month olds were given follow-on formula milk (not recommended before six months).

DH recommends that cow’s milk should not be introduced as a main drink until after 12 months:

  • Children under one year generally consumed no more than a quarter of a pint (146g) of whole milk per day.
  • 15% of infants aged four to six months consumed whole cow’s milk over the survey period, increasing to 79% of those aged 12 to 18 months.

The majority of children consuming food other than milk ate what their parents did:

  • Most ‘almost always’ (28%) or ‘sometimes’ (31%) had the same food as their parents, or ‘sometimes’ had a different meal to (41%).

DH recommends that salt is not added to children’s food:

  • 83% of parents ‘never’ added salt to their child’s food, although average sodium intakes were equivalent to 2.3g per day for those aged 12-18 months, exceeding the recommendation of no more than 2g for this age group.

Fruit and vegetable consumption was relatively high:

  • The mean total fruit and vegetable consumption ranged from 100g per day for children aged four to six months to 170g per day for those aged 12 to 18 months (equivalent of one to two 80g adult portions).


Stage 1: Interviews with over 2,600 parents of children aged between four and 18 months; physical measurements of mother and infant.

Stage 2: Clinic visit for further infant measurements, including blood samples.

Read the report