The impact of Becoming Breastfeeding Friendly

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A new study has been published which assesses the effectiveness of the Becoming Breastfeeding Friendly process as a sustainable policy approach to supporting, promoting and protecting breastfeeding across Great Britain.

The research team from Kent University found valuable support structures in place in England, Scotland and Wales, including from organisations and initiatives such as the UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative and the Breastfeeding Network. The Becoming Breastfeeding Friendly process was also found to stimulate all three countries to engage in high-level discussions on increasing investment in breastfeeding interventions, policies and programmes.

However, whilst effective support strategies are in place, there are limitations relating to varying degrees of political will; implementation of a coordinated national breastfeeding policy; lack of access to robust breastfeeding data; and prevailing circumstances which prevent a repeat of the Breastfeeding Friendly Process in Great Britain:

“Implementation science can only be as effective as the evaluation of the actions implemented allow. To date, it has not been feasible to initiate the next stage of Breastfeeding Friendly in Britain, which involves repeating the process to compare the country’s scores and degree of achievement in scaling up within 5 years of Breastfeeding Friendly. It is our intention to find the means and the political will to continue the Breastfeeding Friendly process across Great Britain and to establish the health and social value of improving the environment for promoting, protecting and supporting breastfeeding.”

Key insights and positive innovations:

  • There is a strong need for continued advocacy by action-orientated groups and organisations such as the UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative, Breastfeeding Network, La Leche League, Baby Milk Action, IBFAN UK and World Breastfeeding Trends initiative.
  • Additional funding of £50m has been agreed in England to provide wider community support and interventions for breastfeeding.
  • There has been a 12-year data gap since the cancellation of the Infant Feeding Survey. Whilst there is no consensus on reinstating a UK-wide infant feeding survey at this time, plans to initiate a survey and improvements in NHS Digital operations may increase the quality and level of infant feeding data collected across the NHS in England.
  • As part of the NHS’s ongoing vision to improve postnatal care, the NHS Long Term Plan includes a commitment that: ‘All maternity services that do not deliver an accredited, evidence-based infant feeding programme (such as the UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative) will begin the accreditation process’ – with a view of all services achieving full accreditation by March 2024. NHS England and NHS Improvement and the UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative have agreed a joint support offer for the 38 maternity services that have not yet achieved full Baby Friendly accreditation and are currently working to fulfil this.

Access the full report Becoming Breastfeeding Friendly in Great Britain—Does implementation science work? here.

About Becoming Breastfeeding Friendly

The Becoming Breastfeeding Friendly (BBF) in Great Britain study was conducted during 2017–2019 comprising three country studies: BBF England, Wales and Scotland. It was part of an international project being coordinated during the same period by the Yale School of Public Health across five world regions to inform countries and guide policies to improve the environment for the promotion, protection and support of breastfeeding. The purpose of the BBF programme is to improve the promotion, protection and support of breastfeeding at community, country and global levels to empower families to breastfeed and provide breast milk, improve health outcomes for babies and mothers and address health inequality.

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