Breast milk is the best nutrition for infants. Exclusively breastfeeding an infant from birth to six months of age involves negligible cost to parents. We have estimated the amount of formula milk required for infants from birth to six months based on energy requirements set by the Committee on Medical Aspects of Food Policy.
At the current price the estimated cost for providing formula milk as a sole food for infants from birth to six months would be approximately £180 to £210. This estimate excludes the cost of additional equipment required for formula feeding such as the feeding bottles, teats and sterilisation equipment.
The Department has not yet undertaken an evaluation of the attitudes of Healthy Start beneficiaries towards breastfeeding, or of the extent to which they purchase infant formula milk with their Healthy Start vouchers. We are, however, planning to commission research on the impact of the scheme on beneficiary behaviour during the current financial year.
Healthy Start vouchers can be used to purchase infant formula milk because it is the only safe alternative to breast milk for infants who are not being breastfed. To exclude it from the scheme could put the babies of low income mothers who have chosen not to breastfeed at severe risk. All communication materials for the scheme advise that breast milk is the best food for all infants under six months old. Midwives and health professionals countersigning Healthy Start application forms are asked to provide advice on healthy diet, including the importance of breastfeeding and to signpost relevant services.