Birth to 5 years

From the moment they are born babies are growing, developing and learning. Having a healthy, secure home environment helps babies and children to grow and develop. There are lots of things you can do to keep your family healthy, happy and strong.

The NHS Start4Life page has help and advice for mums, dads, family and friends. They can tell you everything you need to know during pregnancy, birth and parenthood. You can sign up for weekly emails and alerts to keep up to date.

Ready Steady Baby! is an NHS Health Scotland page that can help you get ready for parenthood. With information to help from the time you decide to try for a baby, through pregnancy, labour, birth and helping your baby grow and develop, you'll find almost everything you need to know. If you want more information on how to help your young ones flourish, or about troubling behaviours, why not look at the "HandsonScotland" toolkit - brilliant information and things to try for parents, carers or people working with children and young people.

It is a good idea to have some knowledge of first aid and common childhood ailments if you are involved in caring for children. St John Ambulance have a free first aid app, and specific advice on what to do in common first aid situations

Healthy Eating

Eating a healthy balanced diet is important for everyone, but especially for pregnant women and new mums. Eating well gives you the energy to cope with day to day to life - these demands are much higher when you are pregnant or have a new baby. Eating a healthy balanced diet also sets a good example for your little ones. Children learn by watching and copying what you do - if they see you enjoying a range of healthy foods they'll probably want to join in when they're old enough!

The Healthy Start scheme gives eligible families free vouchers to spend on milk, fresh or frozen fruit and vegetables and infant formula milk. The vouchers are for anyone who gets income support, income-based job seekers allowance, child tax credit, is on a low income, or is a teenager. If you are not sure if you are eligible speak to Citizens Advice who can do a welfare check and make sure you are getting everything you should be - this check can make a big difference to your income and is very easy to do.

Maternal and Infant Nutrition - FeedGood

For help and information on making the right feeding choice for your family, FeedGood has easy to find information on breastfeeding and other feeding options.

The website features step-by-step 'how to' guides and aims to provide help for breastfeeding challenges  whether you’re thinking about breastfeeding or considering other feeding options. With info, top tips and advice from NHS feeding experts and real-life stories from mums  the webiste offers everything you need to build your confidence and overcome any challenges all in one place.


Breastfeeding is the most natural and healthiest way for a woman to feed her baby. Breastfeeding has lots of benefits for mother and baby, with the effects lasting long into childhood and beyond.

Breastfed babies are at less risk of:
• Allergic disease
• Juvenile onset diabetes
• Ear, chest, gastrointestinal and urinary infections
• Childhood obesity
• Childhood leukaemia
• Sudden infant death syndrome
• Pre-term babies are more likely to have better eyesight and brain development than those who are not breastfed.

The longer a baby is breastfed the greater the protection for some of these conditions.

Mothers that have breastfed are at less risk of:
• Ovarian cancer
• Breast cancer
• Hip fractures in later life caused by osteoporosis

Breastmilk offers optimal nourishment for the first six months for most babies. It involves little preparation and is free. Some mums can't, or choose not to, breastfeed - for these babies to get all the nutrients they need, they should be fed special infant formula.

Formula Feeding

Infant formula milk usually comes in powder form and consists of processed, skimmed cows' milk, treated so that babies can digest it. Vegetable oils, vitamins, minerals and fatty acids are added to make sure the milk contains the vitamins and minerals that young babies need. For details of these check the contents list on the pack.

There are many brands of infant formula milk. All meet the legal standards for formula milk, and it’s up to you which one you use. It is recommended that exclusive whey-based formula milk is used for the first 6 months. The whey based formula milk and weaning foods should be continued until the baby is a year old. Whole cow’s milk is then adequate for the majority of babies.

It is important to thoroughly clean and sterilise all feeding equipment such as bottles. For more information visit Healthy Start.

The Introduction of Complementary foods (weaning)

Weaning is about introducing other foods to your baby alongside her usual breast or formula milk. Until 6 months, breast or formula milk provides all the nourishment that babies need.

First Foods

Your baby's first foods can include mashed or soft cooked fruit and vegetables like parsnip, potato, yam, sweet potato, carrot, apple or pear, all cooled before eating. Soft fruits like peach or melon, or baby rice or baby cereal mixed with your baby's usual milk, are good as well.

Keep feeding your baby breast milk or infant formula, too, but don't give them whole cows' milk as a drink until they are one year old.

Finger foods

Finger food is food that is cut up into pieces big enough for your baby to hold in their fist with a bit sticking out. Pieces about the size of your own finger work well. Your baby learns to chew this way. Try grabbable bits of soft, ripe banana or avocado.

Next foods 

Once your baby is used to the foods above, they can have soft cooked meat such as chicken, mashed fish (check very carefully for any bones), pasta, noodles, toast, pieces of chapatti, lentils, rice and mashed hard-boiled eggs. They can also have full-fat dairy products such as yoghurt, fromage frais or custard. Choose products with no added sugar or less sugar. Whole cows' milk can be used in cooking or mixed with food from six months

Contact your health visitor if you have any questions about weaning your baby. You may continue to breastfeed your baby for as long as you wish.


All babies cry, and some cry a lot. Crying is your baby’s way of telling you they need comfort and care. It can be frustrating trying to work out what your baby wants or needs and it can be difficult and upsetting if they don't seem to settle. Parents often find ways to settle their baby - but it can be helpful to have some tips, advice and reassurance on soothing a crying baby.


Staying active during pregnancy, and being active as a family has lots of benefits. The activity guidelines cover everyone from newborns to older adults - for more ideas on how to be active with your baby check out Start4Life for toddlers and older kids look at Change4Life - don't forget to join in, being active with your kids is a great way to stay fit and healthy. Get in touch with Health Improvement if you'd like a "Play at Home" booklet with ideas of fun games and ways to be active.

Even very young babies should be active. This leaflet gives some good advice on why "tummy time" is important and practical ideas to protect your baby's natural headshape.

The UK doesn't have any guidance on how much "screentime" kids should have, but Australia suggests that children under 2 should have no screentime and children aged 2-5 should have less than 1 hour.


Getting enough sleep is important for everyone, but this can be difficult with a new baby or young child in the house. Knowing what is "normal" and how much sleep your baby or toddler needs can be reassuring. There is good advice on establishing routines and how much sleep your baby or toddler needs on the NHS website.

Postnatal Depression

Postnatal depression is thought to affect 1 in 10 women (and 4 in 10 teenage mums). It can be difficult to speak about, but it is important to tell someone how you are feeling so you can get any help you need. Your Health Visitor will ask questions about how you are feeling - you could speak to them, your GP or a family member or friend. It is normal to feel tired and irritable after having a baby, often due to lack of sleep and hormonal changes, but if these symptoms continue to worsen or interfere with normal life you should discuss them with someone.

Getting the help you need will let you bond with your baby and enjoy family time together - you don't have to feel isolated or deal with these feelings alone.


You should register your baby with your GP as soon as you can. Your Health Visitor or GP will give you advice on the different immunisations your baby needs, and when they should get them.

Immunisation is a way of protecting your child against serious diseases. Once they have been immunised, their bodies are better able to fight these diseases if they come into contact with them.
Visit Immunisation Scotland for more information, or look at their Immunisation Schedule for a quick guide to what you should expect, and when.

Common Childhood Illnesses

All children experience common ailments like colds, and infections such as chickenpox from time to time – they are all part of growing up. Most common ailments will not
need a prescription and they are rarely serious.

Treating your child’s ailment or infection yourself, or with advice from your health visitor or pharmacist is often the best, easiest and quickest way to deal with the problem. NHS Shetland have a handy guide, "Caring for Bairns", to help your recognise and treat minor ailments.

Pre-school Education

Pre-school education helps children to learn, play, develop and make friends. For more advice on what your child is entitled to you could speak to local nursery providers, or visit Citizen's Advice. Bookbug is run by the Scottish Book Trust through the library - you are automatically signed up and will get your first book pack from your Health Visitor. they provide books and run fun sessions with nursery rhymes, stories and songs for you to enjoy with your child and other families.