We are developing science-based product solutions and education programmes, supporting breastfeeding, addressing malnutrition and leveraging our direct access to science and research.
Understanding the science
Our starting point is to understand the science that underpins healthy maternal and infant nutrition in the first 1,000 days – including the genetic, biochemical and behavioural aspects of healthy eating. We use this understanding to educate mothers and carers through our Start Healthy Stay Healthy programme.
Sharing our knowledge
Good nutrition starts before conception and pregnancy, continues after delivery through breast milk, and is followed by developmental, stage-appropriate feeding choices, helping infants and young children to grow and develop into healthy adults. Parents need consistent messages on how to feed young children in a healthy way. Our approach is to help educate parents on the impact that relatively simple dietary changes can have in early life.
Through the work of the Nestlé Nutrition Institute (NNI) we also provide more than 170,000 registered healthcare professionals with the information they need to help their patients, including mothers and infant caregivers, make healthy nutritional choices. The NNI also works in partnership with academia and key opinion leaders to initiate research into maternal and infant nutrition.
Offering healthy choices
Building on our own research and working with external research institutes, we bring science-based solutions to mothers and babies through our innovative product portfolio – e.g. MOM & me supplements for pregnant and lactating women, HA (hypo-allergenic) formulas clinically proven to reduce the risk of allergies in the first years of life and infant cereals specially fortified to help tackle micronutrient deficiencies.
Ensuring the right approach to promoting infant nutrition
In line with World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations, we support exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months of a child’s life and continued breastfeeding for as long as possible thereafter, with the introduction of nourishing complementary foods. When breastfeeding isn’t possible, infant formula is a healthy alternative – particularly since all too often, less nutritious choices such as cow’s milk or rice water are used.
We’re strongly committed to marketing our infant food products in line with the 1981 WHO Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes, which aims to protect and promote breastfeeding and ensure the proper use of breast milk substitutes when these are necessary.
We make sure all our employees involved in infant nutrition understand the WHO Code and use our detailed procedure manuals to guide their actions. We run extensive training and testing programmes for employees on the WHO Code. We carry out internal audits to ensure correct implementation and also commission an external company to do thorough audits as well. We back these up with a ‘whistleblowing’ Ombudsman system, a compliance insurance mechanism – our 'Integrity Reporting System’ and have several conduits into the company for use by stakeholders with any concern.
We have a policy of researching and responding to all serious questions about our breast milk marketing practices. All inputs about our practices are carefully gathered and annually reported to the Board of Directors. This report is used as means for us to evaluate ourselves and to improve our practices. A summary of it can be found on the website.
In 2011, we became the first infant formula manufacturer to be included in the Financial Times Stock Exchange responsible investment index (FTSE4Good), the only index in the world that includes strict criteria on the marketing of breast-milk substitutes.
To find out more about our breast milk marketing practices, please visit responsible infant food marketing.
Start Healthy Stay Healthy - Offering the best advice for mothers and caregivers
Our Start Healthy Stay Healthy programme provides the information and support that mothers and caregivers need to get nutrition right in the first 1,000 days. The programme works through print, television, the web and by providing doctors with practical tools to educate women about the importance of breastfeeding and the best nutrition during pregnancy and the first two years of life.
To back up the programme, we’re involved in proprietary public health research, which helps us identify nutritional gaps and inappropriate eating behaviours. We use the lessons we learn to map out nutritional challenges and opportunities together with local health authorities, governments and NGOs.
The programme was developed following the 2002 and 2008 Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study (FITS). The studies examined the eating habits and nutrient intake of infants and young children and provided important information on what foods are eaten as children transition from an all-milk diet to the food of the family.
In 2011, we initiated a very similar nutrition survey with pregnant women, mothers and babies in China. The study was conducted in collaboration with Peking University to complement the existing national nutrition data.
The MING study characterises the nutrient composition of Chinese mothers’ milk at various stages of lactation and evaluates the nutrition adequacy and behavioural patterns of Chinese mums and babies. First results indicated, for example, that there is a relationship between a mother’s weight gain during pregnancy and the propensity of the child to become obese or develop diabetes later in life. The Chinese Nutrition Society will use the study results to shape new dietary guidelines.
By expanding Start Healthy Stay Healthy into a holistic programme going far beyond products, we can help support obesity prevention, reduce future health risks for both parent and child, and ensure the healthiest possible start to their journey together.
We developed our nutritional milk drink, MOM & me, with the needs of pregnant and lactating women in mind. It provides a combination of beneficial minerals, vitamins, DHA and Bifidus BL active cultures. MOM & me is already available in several Asian markets at an affordable price.
Engaging with key stakeholders
Over the past few years and during 2012, we have had constructive dialogue on breastfeeding and other infant nutrition issues with up to 35 different NGOs and interest groups through annual stakeholder convenings.
The Nestlé Nutrition Institute has a vital role to play in promoting breastfeeding because its independence from Nestlé is assured. Healthcare professionals and key opinion formers generally recognise that its primary interest is in acquiring and sharing knowledge to achieve positive change on nutrition issues.
Sourcing the best raw materials
The best raw materials generally produce the best products. We work closely with our farmers to ensure we can trace our products’ origins and assure their quality. We also help them introduce more efficient cultivation methods; in the Talamanca District in Costa Rica we assist indigenous farmers to improve quality and quantity of organic bananas, which form the base raw material for many baby foods in jars.