NIHR Obesity Policy Research Unit at UCL


Policy options to encourage healthy feeding practices among infants and young children


What policy options will be effective in encouraging healthy feeding practices among infants and young children?


To generate evidence that will enable us to identify policies that can create the necessary conditions to support healthy infant feeding practices.


Considerable evidence underscores the importance of establishing healthy feeding practices early to protect against obesity and related chronic diseases later in life. Given this, it is important to understand what influences caregivers’ decisions about what to feed their children in the period where infants are transitioning from breast milk or infant formula to solid food.

There is currently limited research in the UK or internationally that considers, in-depth, the transition from breastmilk or infant formula to solid food. This is problematic since contextual factors have been shown to be more important than nutritional ideals in shaping feeding practices. There is, therefore, an opportunity to use qualitative methods to explore the variety of factors that may influence infant feeding transitions. These include: labelling and claims on food and formula packaging; infant food advertising and branding; engagement with health professionals; familial and social context; and the influence of existing policies such as the Healthy Start scheme. Furthermore, including a range of income groups will allow a comparison to be drawn between various socio-economic contexts.

Aims and Methodology

  • The project is a qualitative longitudinal study that will take place remotely over the period of a year. Parents/ carers will be recruited when their infants are 4-6 months, with follow ups at 10-12 months, and 16-18 months.
  • Each research engagement will comprise a remote semi-structured interview about experiences of transitioning infants onto solid food, followed by a photo elicitation activity.
  • Analysis will take place after each phase of data collection to produce interim cross-sectional findings. Findings will also be compared and contrasted over the whole study period to provide insight into if and how change is occurring, and what aspects of COVID-19 and the response to it are shaping these changes.  


  • 60 parents/carers recruited to take part in interviews and creative activities over a week (July to November 2020).