About Baby Friendly

Home > About Baby Friendly

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, with 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 (91%) and health visiting services (89%) 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.

Theory of change document

Outlines how Baby Friendly works to have a long term impact on public health outcomes


Support for parents

Useful resources for new parents

More info

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.

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.

About Unicef

Unicef works around the world, including right here in the UK, to keep all children healthy, happy and safe. We help more children than any other humanitarian organisation. We keep them safe when war or disaster strike. We provide life-saving food, clean water and vaccinations. We protect them from violence and exploitation. We give them a safe place to laugh and play. We help get them into school and give them the chance of a better future. All over the world, we’re working with our partners and supporters to make the world a safer place for every child. Find out more: unicef.org.uk

Our accreditation programme helps services transform their care, supporting all families with feeding and relationship building.

Going Baby Friendly

Whether you're at the start or already on the journey to becoming Baby Friendly, visit this page for guidance and application forms

More info

Find out more