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Qualifications Framework

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This new programme from the Baby Friendly Initiative is designed to increase knowledge and capacity related to infant feeding and very early child development across public services. The Framework is also designed to recognise 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.

The Framework is aimed at anyone working in UK public services who wishes to learn more or gain recognition for their knowledge and skills in infant feeding and early relationship building. There are three separate, but complimentary, qualifications designed to meet the needs of a range of roles and responsibilities.

Download the Overview document for a summary of the framework, and find out more below.

Cohort 1:

Applications are currently open until midday on Friday 3rd Jan 2020. If successful, applicants will start in March 2020 and submit their portfolio in Aug 2020.

Qualifications framework - Overview document


Qualifications framework - Application form


Find out more

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.

We are accepting applications for enrolment in March 2020. 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 by midday on Jan 3rd 2020.
  • 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. The costs for the programme are £250 (Advocate), £350 (Practitioner) and £550 (Leader).

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.

See an example of the assessment process for vision statement 1 (pdf)

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. For the March 2020 cohort, the interview dates will be either 23 or 24 September 2020, and will take around 20 minutes. 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

  • understanding
  • application to practice
  • reflections

These three criteria are each marked out of 10, giving a maximum total score of 30 for each vision statement and a maximum score of 180 for all 6 vision statements. Leaders can also score a maximum of 30 for their interview. All scores are added, and participants are given a final percentage based on the actual points achieved divided by the maximum that it is possible to achieve multiplied by 100.

70% is required to Pass. A score of 81% to 90% will result in a Commendation. A score of 91% or above will result in a Distinction.

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.