New resource brings together wealth of evidence to support  investment in early years in order to improve long term health and wellbeing of mothers and babies.

UNICEF UK’s Baby Friendly Initiative has this week published the evidence behind its new standards of care, focusing on the importance of nurturing and feeding in a baby’s emotional development. 

The evidence and rationale for the UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative Standards, is a freely-available publication that brings together all the evidence behind  Baby Friendly’s new standards around breastfeeding and relationship-building. It includes forewords by Health Ministers from all four UK nations.

The new standards, introduced by the children’s charity last year following a large consultation involving clinicians, academics, policy makers and mothers, incorporate the previously used Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding in Hospital and the Seven Point Plan for Sustaining Breastfeeding in the Community, but update and expand them to fully reflect the latest evidence around delivering the best outcomes for mothers and babies in the UK. One major difference is that there are now specific standards for children’s centres and neonatal units, in addition to those for maternity and community settings.

The evidence book’s author, academic and midwife, Francesca Entwistle, said: “I understand the challenges faced by those involved in infant feeding support: it can be difficult to identify the evidence available, work out what is good quality, current and applicable and then critically analyse how best to commission and apply it. I hope this book will go some way to addressing this, and that health professionals will enjoy, quote, pick up and put down, come back to and use it again and again.”

The release of the evidence e-book coincides with the recent publication of NICE postnatal guidelines quality standards which also include a focus on nurturing and recommend the new Baby Friendly standards as minimum levels of practice. 

Sue Ashmore, UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Director, said: “There is an elemental change taking place in health care around supporting a strong mother-baby and family bond. We now have the evidence to understand why it is so important that babies are not left to cry for prolonged periods of time, how touching and stroking help calm and soothe a baby, and why a baby needs to be kept close to its mother as much as possible.

“This body of evidence affects our practice as health professionals. We need to put the mother-baby and family relationships at the heart of all care. Breastfeeding remains a huge contributing factor to health and wellbeing, and naturally promotes nurturing practices such as skin contact. So it is even more important for bottle- feeding mums that we can support strong relationship building.”

In the Foreword to the evidence document, Health Minister Dan Poulter writes: “Baby Friendly’s new Standards support feeding and relationship building for all mothers and babies, whether breastfeeding or bottle feeding, recognising the importance of the mother-baby relationship as the basis on which all other relationships are built.
And as we move forward and go even further in promoting these improvements, a solid evidence base is crucial. This Evidence Document is supporting changes to practice that will help deliver better long term outcomes for mothers and babies.”

Key points:

  • The evidence for supporting and promoting investment in the early years is strong
  • The research evidence explains how supporting breastfeeding and relationship building will improve the health and wellbeing outcomes mothers and babies
  • UK data demonstrates that more needs to be done to promote and support breastfeeding
  • Endorsement and support of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes needs to remain high on the agenda to protect mothers and babies
  • Commissioners are required to commission evidence based support services to improve outcomes for mothers and babies, including effective training for all staff
  • The evidence supports the UNICEF UK Baby Friendly standards to promote, protect and support breastfeeding and emotional development for mothers and babies.

The e-book can be downloaded from



Notes for editors:

For media enquiries please contact Sarah Vincent, UNICEF UK Media Relations Office, on 07814 447935 or

About The Baby Friendly Initiative
The UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative works with UK public services to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding and to strengthen mother-baby and family relationships. A strong mother-baby relationship is the foundation for a baby’s future health and wellbeing. Breastfeeding supports this loving bond and makes a vital difference to health. The Baby Friendly Initiative works to support these relationships for all babies, not only those who are breastfed. 

UNICEF is the world's leading organisation working for children and their rights in more than 190 countries. As champion of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF works to help every child realise their full potential. Together with our partners, UNICEF delivers health care, nutrition, education and protection to children in urgent need, while working with governments to ensure they deliver on their promise to protect and promote the rights of every child. UNICEF relies entirely on voluntary donations from individuals, governments, institutions and corporations, and is not funded by the UN budget. For more information, please