About Baby Friendly

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The Baby Friendly Initiative is transforming healthcare for babies, their mothers and families in the UK as part of a wider global partnership between the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF.

We enable public services to better support families with feeding and developing close, loving relationships, ensuring that all babies get the best possible start in life.

The accreditation programme

Our evidence-based, staged accreditation programme supports maternity, neonatal, health visiting and children’s centre services to transform their care. We’re also working with universities to ensure that newly qualified midwives and health visitors have the strong foundation of knowledge needed to care for families. We support services by:

  • Setting standards, which provide a roadmap for sustainable improvements
  • Providing training and personalised support to help services implement the standards
  • Assessing progress by measuring the skills and knowledge of health professionals, and interviewing mothers to hear about their personal experiences of care.

Our theory of change document (see download link on this page) summarises the Baby Friendly programme and how it impacts on culture and practice, thus leading to changes in infant care and feeding and promoting long-term effects on children’s lives.

Services which implement our best practice standards receive the prestigious Baby Friendly award, which is a nationally recognised mark of quality care. Introduced to the UK in 1994, the accreditation programme is now recognised and recommended in numerous government and policy documents across all four UK nations, including the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidance.

The majority of maternity units (93%) and health visiting services (90%) across the UK are now working towards Baby Friendly accreditation, and new neonatal and children’s centre standards have been introduced to help more services improve care. Find out more about the accreditation process.

Supporting infant feeding and relationship building

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.

The 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.


UNICEF is a multilateral child-rights organisation established by the UN with 70 years of field-tested expertise, a network that spans the globe, a passion for innovation and a commitment to make every penny count. Impartial and non-political, UNICEF is never neutral when it comes to protecting children’s rights and safeguarding their lives and futures. UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, reaching the furthest from help, the most disadvantaged and the most at risk. UNICEF saves children’s lives with vaccines, clean water and therapeutic food. UNICEF protects children from violence, exploitation and abuse. And UNICEF helps children fulfil their potential, by supporting quality education and training. UNICEF works for every child, to build a better world for everyone.

The United Kingdom Committee for UNICEF (UNICEF UK) is a registered charity that raises funds for UNICEF’s emergency and development work around the world and advocates for lasting change for children worldwide. This includes, for example, working to change UK Government policies and practices that are harmful to child rights in the UK and internationally. UNICEF UK is one of 33 UNICEF national charitable organisations based in industrialised countries. Find out more: unicef.org.uk

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