Vitamin D and Healthy Start Vouchers

Good news for Sheffield!

Free Healthy Start vitamins are to be supplied by Sheffield City Council from 1st September 2016.Healthy Start vitamins contain the appropriate amount of recommended vitamins A, C and D for children aged from six months to four years, and folic acid and vitamins C and D for pregnant and breastfeeding women. They will be available to:

– All pregnant women

– Breastfeeding mums will receive one free 8 week supply on discharge from the maternity unit.

– Breastfed babies will receive one free 8 week supply at the first health visitor visit

– Formula fed children will get a voucher from the health visitor around 6 months to take to the Children’s Centre and exchange for one free 8 week supply

– If you fit into any of the ‘at risk’ groups you’ll get the vitamins free until your child is 4 years old (speak to your midwife or health visitor for more information)

Vitamin D and folic acid during pregnancy

All pregnant and breastfeeding women are advised to take a daily vitamin D supplement of 10 micrograms. Vitamin D regulates the amount of calcium in the body, which helps to keep bones and teeth strong and healthy. This also provides your baby with enough vitamin D in their first few months.

All pregnant and breastfeeding women, particularly teenagers and young women, are at risk of vitamin D deficiency. But you’re more at risk if:

  • You’re not exposed to much sun, for example, you cover up your skin, are housebound, or confined indoors for long periods
  • You’re of South Asian or Caribbean descent, or have darker skin, because your body does not produce as much vitamin D in response to sunlight

If you’re in any doubt about taking vitamin supplements during your pregnancy or while you are breastfeeding, speak to your GP or another health professional such as a pharmacist.

Warning: If you’re pregnant, you should avoid supplements and multivitamins containing vitamin A (retinol) –– as too much of it can harm your baby’s development. You should also avoid liver and liver products (including fish liver oil), as they are high in vitamin A.

Folic acid

Taking a 400 microgram folic acid supplement before and during the early days of your pregnancy helps with the development of your unborn baby. However, women who suffer from diabetes, or have had a previous neural tube defect (NTD) affected pregnancy, or have a history of spina bifida or similar conditions in the family, should consult their doctor as they may need to take a daily dose of 5mg of folic acid.

This applies to all women who are either pregnant or planning to get pregnant, whatever their age, and whether or not there is a history of spina bifida or similar conditions in the family. Many people with spina bifida will have some paralysis and need aids to help them to walk or will need to use a wheelchair. It can also affect the nerves controlling the bowel and bladder.

Folic acid is a man-made form of folate, a B vitamin that occurs naturally in food. It’s unlikely that you’ll get enough folate to protect your baby just from the food you eat, which is why folic acid supplements are recommended. But it’s still a good idea to eat a healthy, balanced diet that includes folate-rich foods such as granary bread, beans and pulses, and green vegetables such as broccoli and spinach. Look out for the symbol on some breads and breakfast cereals which shows they’re fortified with extra folic acid.

Healthy Start Vouchers

click here for the Healthy Start booklet and application form

Families on certain benefits can get free milk, fruit, vegetables and vitamins.

The Healthy Start scheme provides free vouchers which you swap for milk, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables and infant formula milk. You can also get free vitamins.

You qualify for Healthy Start if you’re pregnant or have a child under four years old AND you or your family get:

  • Income Support, or
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, or Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, or
  • Child Tax Credit (but not Working Tax Credit unless your family is receiving Working Tax Credit run-on only*) and have an annual family income of below £16,190 or less (2014/15)


You also qualify if you are pregnant and under 18 years of age even if you don’t get any of the above credits. We know that the benefits system is changing, if you think you may qualify talk to your midwife or health visitor to find out how you can sign up for the scheme.

 Healthy Start Vouchers

You can use your vouchers in any shop that’s taking part in the Healthy Start scheme. Look out for the Healthy Start stickers in shop windows, or ask inside. Healthy Start shops include Children’s Centres, greengrocers, milkmen, market stalls, pharmacies, corner shops and food co-ops as well as supermarkets.

You can spend your vouchers on a mixture of:

  • Milk
  • Fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Infant formula milk