Unicef Baby Friendly Initiative
The Unicef UK Baby Friendly Initiative is based on a global accreditation programme of UNICEF and the World Health Organisation. It is designed to support breastfeeding and parent-infant relationships by working with public services to improve standards of care. Our work to support breastfeeding is based on extensive and resounding evidence that breastfeeding saves lives, improves health and cuts costs in every country worldwide, rich and poor alike. WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months and thereafter with other foods for two years and beyond. In the UK, where many mothers stop breastfeeding before they want to, we respond to the particular barriers they face. We support health professionals to provide sensitive and effective care, enabling mothers to make an informed choice about feeding, get breastfeeding off to a good start and overcome any challenges. Thanks to this work, breastfeeding initiation rates have risen by 20% since the Baby Friendly Initiative was established. We also support parents who are formula feeding by providing information on choosing milks and making up feeds, helping them to feed safely and responsively. We also advocate for better regulation of marketing of breastmilk substitutes so that health professionals and families can receive scientific, unbiased and factual information about infant feeding. We work to support all families to develop close and loving relationships with their newborn and to understand the importance of this for their baby’s development. For example, in Baby Friendly hospitals mothers and babies now routinely stay together in the immediate post-birth period, helping to get their relationship off to a good start. In addition, our neonatal standards empower parents of sick or preterm babies to take an active part in their care on the neonatal unit. In these ways, the Baby Friendly Initiative is helping to create a “new normal” in health services, where babies, their mothers and families are put at the heart of care.