The Qualifications Framework is a six-month programme designed to increase knowledge and capacity related to infant feeding and very early child development across public services.
Please note: applications for the 2021 spring and autumn cohorts are now closed.
This programme from the Baby Friendly Initiative recognises the dedication and expertise of those working in the field of infant feeding and very early child development by providing a recognisable and prestigious qualification that can act as a quality assurance for employers, colleagues and the general public. There are three separate, but complimentary, qualifications designed to meet the needs of a range of roles and responsibilities. Below is an in-depth look at each.
To learn more about the programme, download the overview document and see the details of each qualification and FAQs / tips for a successful application below. You can also view the register of qualified recipients to learn about the graduates from our 2020 cohort and listen to a podcast on the programme.
For a closer look at the Qualifications Framework Programme, listen to a new podcast developed by members of the Unicef UK Baby Friendly Initiative and the Qualifications Framework Board, featuring our newly Qualified Leaders, Sally Goodwin-Mills BFIqL and Donna Mary Butler BFIqL.
FAQS & tips for a successful application
1. Who is it aimed at?
There are three separate, but complimentary, qualifications designed to meet the needs of a range of roles and responsibilities:
Advocates are those who advocate (or would like to advocate) for infant feeding and/or the Baby Friendly standards within their sphere of practice/influence. Advocates could be working in UK public services, in a charity or professional association. Advocates would include managers at all levels who would like more in-depth understanding of infant feeding, the standards and the application of the evidence into public services (including the potential for improving public health). Advocates could also include allied professionals whose practice brings them into contact with babies, their mothers and their families and who would like a better understanding of how to offer support and appropriate referral as required.
Practitioners are those working clinically with mothers to support infant feeding and very early child development. Practitioners are staff who have received basic training and would like to learn more. They undertake (or would like to undertake) extra responsibilities such as mentoring and training colleagues, teaching and supporting parents, undertaking audits etc. to support the implementation of the Baby Friendly standards and other initiatives.
Leaders are those coordinating/leading on infant feeding and/or the implementation of the Baby Friendly standards in public services. Leaders are the staff who project manage infant feeding services and/or Baby Friendly on a day-to-day basis, including those who provide specialist services. This qualification level is also available to participants who are not currently in a lead role, but who are interested in career progression. In this case, they would need to demonstrate that they have proactively sought experience in assisting the lead with strategic coordination, and thus would be capable of achieving the requirements outlined for the leadership qualification.
2. How does it work?
The Framework is based on six vision statements which describe what is needed to improve outcomes for babies, their mothers and families related to infant feeding in the UK. Under each vision statement there are separate lists of capabilities for advocates, practitioners and leaders. These describe the knowledge, skills and understanding needed for learners to contribute to making the vision statements a reality. Read the vision statements and capabilities in the Overview document.
Participants are asked to complete a portfolio of their learning, experience and reflection related to each vision statement and associated capabilities. There are short essays, activities and reflective exercises to complete. Participants are supported to work at their own pace and in ways that enable personal development over a six month period. This structured framework is intended to support the learner to evidence the knowledge and skills they already have, while also developing a deeper knowledge and understanding of infant feeding and very early child development, including how to implement and advocate for evidence-based practice within their own sphere of practice.
A list of suggested learning resources is provided for each vision statement and is designed to guide the participant as they work towards meeting the capabilities. However, it is not an exhaustive list. Participants are also encouraged to use independently sourced material and their own knowledge and experience to complete their portfolio.
All portfolios are marked anonymously and then moderated externally. Advocates and practitioners will receive their qualification based on the results of marking and moderating their portfolio. For leaders, the portfolio will be used as the basis for one-to-one interviews to determine the extent of their knowledge and understanding. Results from the portfolio and interview will be combined and qualifications awarded based on the results.
All participants will be asked to have their work verified as a true and original piece of work by a self-selected mentor (e.g. infant feeding lead, manager, experienced colleague).
3. How do I apply?
Prospective participants are asked to read the vision statements and capabilities carefully and then use these to identify their own strengths and areas for development.
Once enrolled, participants have 6 months to complete and submit their portfolio. If a participant feels they will need longer than six months to complete the portfolio, preparatory work can be carried out before the start date. For example, information can be gathered, prior learning documented, case studies gathered etc.
- If you are confident of being able to provide evidence of meeting all the capabilities within six months, complete and submit the application form to the Baby Friendly office.
- The application form will be considered against set criteria for acceptance and the participant will be informed of whether they have been successful or not. Each course will have a limited number of places and so it could be that participants are asked to apply again, simply because this course is full.
- Once accepted, the participant will be asked to formally enrol in the course and pay the associated fee.
4. What support is provided?
We recognise that participants have different needs depending on their current level of knowledge and experience. The framework is designed to allow learners to work at their own speed and in their own way over the six month period in order to gather the evidence needed to complete their portfolio and prepare for their interview (leaders only)
The framework does not involve a taught course; rather a list of suggested learning resources will be provided, including ongoing guidance and support on how to complete the process and suggestions for making progress over the six months.
Completing the portfolio will include answering questions, providing case studies, reflective writing exercises, visits to local facilities, preparing presentations and providing testimonies to demonstrate that knowledge and skills have been achieved.
5. What will be assessed?
The six overarching vision statements describe what we hope to achieve in the UK in relation to infant feeding and very early child development. The capabilities for each vision statement outline how we expect graduates from each programme (advocate, leader or practitioner) to positively contribute to achieving the vision. These are outlined below.
To gain a Baby Friendly qualification all learners will be expected to demonstrate each capability, showing how they have achieved it, or are capable of achieving it.
Threaded throughout the visions and capabilities, we will also be looking for evidence of the following principles:
- A child rights focus
- A mother centred approach
- Communication skills, in terms of respect, sensitivity and empathy, and also in terms of confident negotiation skills
- Emphasis on reflection and self-awareness, with an eye for opportunities and proactive working, coupled with a recognition of the limits of your role and when to signpost/refer as appropriate
- Multi-disciplinary and inter-professional approach.
6. Portfolio submission and assessment
The programme is very structured, with distinct pieces of work required for the vision statements, most with a strict word limit. When completing the portfolio consider:
- Have I completed each piece of work asked for and kept within the word limit?
- Does my work illustrate how I meet the capabilities for the vision statement?
- Does my work adhere to the principles above?
Providing that you can answer yes to these three questions, then you can be confident that you have completed the portfolio correctly.
Portfolios and supporting material will be required to be submitted by the six month deadline. All portfolios will be marked against the assessment criteria. All participants will be asked to have their work verified as a true and original piece of work by a self-selected mentor (e.g. infant feeding lead, manager, experienced colleague).
- Advocates and Practitioners will be awarded their qualification based solely on their portfolio submission.
- Leaders will undertake a telephone interview with an assessor and questions will be based on their portfolio submission. The interview will be marked and contribute, with their portfolio, to their submission for qualification. There will be some set questions and also questions based around the portfolio submission. All interviews are recorded to allow for external moderation.
7. Marking and results
For each vision statement, participants are asked to submit work that demonstrates
- application to practice
These three criteria are marked to give a total score of 30 for each of the six vision statements and therefore a maximum score of 180 overall. All scores are totalled and a final percentage is calculated based on the actual points achieved out of the maximum number of points that it is possible to achieve. Participants need to achieve an overall score of 70% or above on each vision statement to pass.
A qualification board made up of relevant academics and clinicians will act as moderators to ensure equity throughout the process. They will make the final decisions related to qualifications in order to ensure consistency and fairness. The board will have access to all portfolios, assessment documents, and tapes of interviews and from these will ratify results.
What happens when I pass?
- The participants who achieve the required standard will be awarded a Baby Friendly qualification.
- The participant’s name and grade will be added to the Baby Friendly qualification register which is publicly available via the Unicef UK Baby Friendly Initiative website.
- Successful participants will receive a certificate and qualification mark that can be used in their professional correspondence and e-mail signatures etc.
- Successful participants will be included in a rollcall of honour at the next Baby Friendly conference after they achieve their qualification.
- All successful participants will be asked to sign a qualification agreement with Unicef UK.
- The qualification lasts for five years, after which a re-validation process will be required.
8. Your concerns answered
What happens if I don’t succeed at first?
Participants will not be able to pass if they do not achieve 70% for any one vision statement or if they do not achieve 70% overall. At the discretion of the qualification board, participants may be allowed to submit further evidence around any unmet criteria within a four-month period. Providing this is satisfactory, they will then achieve a pass. A fair and transparent procedure is in place in case of any concerns or complaints (see website).
What happens if I can’t complete the portfolio in six months?
Participants can apply for an extension in exceptional circumstances and this will be considered. It is expected that participants will only enrol once they are confident that they can complete the process within six months. Preparatory work, including collecting the necessary evidence and starting the portfolio, can begin at any time.
What happens if I can’t make the interview date?
Participants are made aware of the interview dates and location at the time of enrolment. If they cannot attend the interview on that date then it is suggested that they defer their enrolment until the next course. There is a deferral policy available on the website for when participants cannot attend the interview after enrolment. An additional fee may be charged for deferrals that are made close to the planned interview date.
9. Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Within the six months, how much time do I need to allow to complete the course?
A: Feedback from the 2020 cohort is that it always takes longer than you think. Each month there is a Virtual Support Meeting (1 hour) to support you and answer any questions. Most people dedicated at least one day a month, but in reality there was additional time for reading, reflection, learning and then pulling together the portfolio. What was really important to the group was finding the ‘headspace’ to be able to switch off from work and family time to concentrate on the course. Participants were wholeheartedly positive about the course and said that it is achievable in six months and well worth doing.
Q: Can I do a qualification if I am a volunteer?
A: There are three separate, but complimentary, qualifications designed to meet the needs of a range of roles and responsibilities. Volunteers could apply for the Advocate qualification: ‘Advocates are those who advocate (or would like to advocate) for infant feeding and/or the Baby Friendly standards within their sphere of practice/influence. Advocates could be working in UK public services, in a charity or professional association.’
Q: I am a International Board Certified Lactation Consultant®, can I do the course?
A: We welcome applications from International Board Certified Lactation Consultants® who will be able to use their learning and experience to complete the portfolio submission. Depending on your current role and responsibilities you may be able to apply for any of the three qualifications. You will know your own sphere and context of practice which you can map to the descriptors below.
- An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant® could apply for the Advocate qualification: Advocates are those who advocate (or would like to advocate) for infant feeding and/or the Baby Friendly standards within their sphere of practice/influence. Advocates could be working in UK public services, in a charity or professional association.
- An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant® could be working clinically with mothers to support infant feeding and therefore apply for the Practitioner qualification: Practitioners are those working clinically with mothers to support infant feeding and very early child development.
- An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant® could be leading on infant feeding in public services and therefore apply for the Leader qualification: Leaders are those coordinating/leading on infant feeding and/or the implementation of the Baby Friendly standards in public services.
Q: I am an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant® do I get any exemptions?
A: No there are no exemptions. To gain a Baby Friendly qualification all learners will be expected to demonstrate how they will achieve each capability within the six vision statements. Experienced practitioners and International Board Certified Lactation Consultants® will have an advantage in as much as they can use their knowledge and expertise to help them complete the portfolio.
Q: I am an independent midwife, can I access the course?
A: We welcome applications from any midwife. There are three separate, but complimentary, qualifications designed to meet the needs of a range of roles and responsibilities. Depending on your current role and responsibilities you may be able to apply for any of the three qualifications. You will know your own sphere and context of practice which you can map to the descriptors below.
- An independent midwife could apply for the Advocate qualification: Advocates are those who advocate (or would like to advocate) for infant feeding and/or the Baby Friendly standards within their sphere of practice/influence. Advocates could be working in UK public services, in a charity or professional association.
- An independent midwife could be working clinically with mothers to support infant feeding and therefore apply for the Practitioner qualification: Practitioners are those working clinically with mothers to support infant feeding and very early child development.
- An independent midwife midwife could be leading on infant feeding in public services and therefore apply for the Leader qualification: Leaders are those coordinating/leading on infant feeding and/or the implementation of the Baby Friendly standards in public services.
Q: Will there be a possibility of Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL)?
A: “Accreditation of Prior and Experiential Learning (APEL) is the overall term widely used for the recognition of, and award of, academic credit on the basis of demonstrated learning that has occurred at some time in the past. This learning may have come about as the result of a course, self-directed study or as the result of experience either at work or in leisure pursuits”. (UCAS, 2008 p.1)
Once you have gained the qualification, you can explore the possibility to APEL this qualification with your university. As the programme progresses, we will be working with universities to showcase examples of how this can work.
10. Tips for a successful application
Have you submitted your application by the deadline?
Due to the high volume of applications we receive, we are unable to consider any that are submitted past the deadline. Please ensure you submit your application by the deadline, time and date, stated on the website for it to be considered. You can find information on all future deadlines on this page when they are announced.
Have you completed all fields?
Please ensure all sections of the application are completed, including signature fields. Incomplete applications will not be considered.
Are you applying for the correct qualification?
When applying for the programme, please choose the most appropriate qualification (Advocate, Practitioner or Leader) to fit your experience. If you are unsure which qualification is right for you, you can find more information in the qualifications overview document (available as a download on this page) and in the FAQs above.
Have you demonstrated sufficient experience? (Leaders and Practitioners)
In order to provide the most useful and relevant programme possible, applicants applying for the Practitioner or Leader qualification who do not demonstrate sufficient experience will not be able to be accepted. Make sure you cover all your experience. If you are not accepted for the next cohort, we suggest continuing to gain as much experience as possible in Baby Friendly and re-applying for the next cohort.
Have you provided an adequate description of your current role?
It is important for our assessors to have a good understanding of your current role and day-to-day responsibilities. Please ensure you have provided a sufficient description of this, as a brief or inadequate description will prevent us from determining your eligibility for the programme.
Have you sufficiently explained why you want to do this course?
Please ensure you have provided an explanation of why you want to do this course. Applicants are strongly encouraged to familiarise themselves with the six vision statements and reflect these in their application.
Have you stuck to the word count?
Please try and stick to the word count specified for each section and please add the word count in brackets at the end of the section.