Editor: Time to help mums so they can give best start in life

Getting the best start in life doesn’t mean picking up when children are toddlers – it means starting before they are even born by looking after their pregnant mothers.

Thursday, 11th November 2021, 6:48 am
The Jessop Wing Hospital in Sheffield

There is a vast wealth of research which proves this and, yet, we do very little to ensure we take easy steps to make it happen.

It is a struggle. There are families which can’t afford to eat properly, who save money through meals made of ridiculously cheap junk food and who worry about putting on the heating.

It doesn’t help that this city’s maternity services were given such a bashing the last time inspectors passed through. Despite all the assurances of bosses, last week saw the extraordinary situation where Sheffield babies were born in other towns because our hospital had to close its doors to them. To put it simply, it couldn’t cope. That doesn’t fill me with confidence that changes have happened yet or that they are even on the way. Imagine going into labour, expecting to go to Jessops and end up giving birth in Derbyshire. As if women don’t have enough on at that point!

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Then, even those who can afford to give their tots what they believe is a proper diet, it turns out even that is a con. So-called ‘healthy’ snacks for babies and toddlers can contain as much as two teaspoons of unnecessary sugar, a study has found.

Action on Sugar looked at 73 baby snacks and found that more than a third could receive a red traffic light-style label for sugar content – despite their packaging featuring ‘healthy sounding’ claims. Currently, baby and children’s food and drink is not required to display traffic light labelling on the front of packs.

Dr Kawther Hashem, campaign lead at Action on Sugar and research fellow at Queen Mary University of London, said: “It’s ludicrous that certain food companies are being allowed to promote their high-sugar sweet snacks to parents with very young children, despite them being aware that babies and toddlers shouldn’t be having any free sugars.”

We’re only passing through as humans but what standards are we setting for the generations that follow us? If we don’t re-evaluate our priorities soon, it isn’t us who will suffer but those we care for the most, long after we’ve gone.