Licensing criteria for centre-based ECE services

Section 10 of the Education and Training Act 2020(external link) defines an early childhood education and care centre as a premises that is used regularly for the education or care of 3 or more children (not being children of the persons providing the education or care or children enrolled at a school who are being provided with education or care before or after school) under the age of 6 years by day (or part of a day) but not for any continuous period of more than 7 days.

Centre-based ECE services have a variety of different operating structures, philosophies and affiliations, and are known by many different names – for example, Playcentres, early learning centres, Montessori, childcare centres, Kindergartens, crèches, preschools, a’oga amata, Rudolf Steiner etc.

These centres are licensed in accordance with the Education and Training Act 2020 under the Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008(external link), which prescribe minimum standards that each licensed service must meet. Licensing criteria are used to assess how the centres meet the minimum standards required by the regulations.

For each criterion there is guidance to help centres meet the required standards.

The publication of the criteria on its own can be downloaded as a PDF [PDF, 1.8 MB] and printed. 

The licensing criteria were last updated in September 2022. 


HS23 Bottle feeding

  • Criteria
    • Criteria

      Health and safety practices criterion 23


      Infants under the age of 6 months and other children unable to drink independently are held semi-upright when being fed. Any infant milk food given to a child under the age of 12 months is of a type approved by the child's parent.


      The criterion aims to uphold the safety and wellbeing of children by ensuring they are not 'propped' and left unattended with a bottle. The criterion also ensures a basic level of nurturing behaviour towards infants.

  • Guidance
    • Guidance

      Any examples in the guidance are provided as a starting point to show how services can meet (or exceed) the requirement. Services may choose to use other approaches better suited to their needs as long as they comply with the criteria.

      Infants or other children with special needs who may not be able to drink independently should not be “propped up” and left unattended by adults as they can move around or slide over which may lead to choking. Staff ratios should be sufficient for this and providing a comfortable adult sized chair will assist the required one-on-one supervision.

      Centres need to decide who provides any infant formula and bottles. If formula is provided, parental approval of the brand/type is required before it is used. If the usual brand/type is unavailable, parental approval of any substitute is also required prior to use.

      The service needs to have a procedure for hygienic preparation of bottles including:

      • Sterilisation of bottles
      • Hand washing
      • Timing of preparation - as close as possible to feeding time
      • Following instructions for mixing formula (as different brands use different size scoops and volumes of water)
      • If storage of made up formula brought by parents is necessary, it should only be kept in the refrigerator for a maximum of four hours past the time it is made up.

      The Ministry of Health has produced a publication on infant formula(external link).