There are two distinct, but complementary, qualifications designed to recognise and develop the infant feeding-related knowledge, skills and professional experience of those working to lead the implementation of the Baby Friendly standards within UK public services or to advocate for the standards within their sphere of influence. Participants are recognised for their dedication and expertise in these fields through a recognisable and prestigious qualification that can act as quality assurance for employers, colleagues and the general public.
This is a distance learning programme which relies on a large self-directed element interspersed with facilitated seminars and peer support over an eight month period. You can familiarise yourself with the overview document, frequently asked questions and podcast which are available on our website. You can also view the register of qualified recipients.
For a closer look at the Qualifications Framework Programme, listen to a podcast developed by members of the UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative and the Qualifications Framework Board, featuring Qualified Leaders, Sally Goodwin-Mills BFIqL and Donna Mary Butler BFIqL.
Graduate registerView Qualified recipients
This was the first piece of work I had done in infant feeding where I could stand back and look at how it all fits together. It reflected everything I stand for and am trying to achieve.
The Qualifications Framework Programme is a recipe for how to lead a service.
FAQS & tips for a successful application
1. Who is the Qualifications Framework Programme aimed at?
There are two distinct but complementary qualifications designed specifically to recognise and develop the infant feeding-related knowledge, skills and professional experience of those working to lead the implementation of the Baby Friendly standards within UK public services or to advocate for the standards within their sphere of influence
Advocates are those who advocate (or would like to advocate) for child rights in relation to infant feeding and very early child development within their sphere of influence. They wish to promote and uphold the Baby Friendly standards and advocate for equitable, timely and effective breastfeeding and infant feeding support through influencing policy at governmental or local level, commissioning effective services, or influencing best practice standards in UK Public Services. This course is suitable for anyone ranging from allied professionals to managers at all levels including Baby Friendly Guardians who wish to gain a more in-depth understanding of infant feeding to impact change.
Leaders are those coordinating/leading on infant feeding and 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 the Qualifications Framework Programme 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 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 the eight-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.
The portfolios are marked anonymously and moderated externally. Advocates will receive their qualification based on the results of the marking and moderating process. 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.
3. How do I apply?
UNICEF UK promotes equality, diversity and inclusion in the Qualifications Framework Programme and welcomes anyone who is ambitious to make a difference for babies, their mothers and families as part of their work towards a Baby Friendly qualification. If that sounds like you, you have come to the right place and we will do all that we can to support you.
Feedback from qualified participants is that the programme ‘takes more time than you anticipate, and the time goes very quickly’. We therefore strongly recommend that you think about how you can fit the programme into your everyday life and when would be the best time to apply. Participants have also reported finding the programme academically challenging but worthwhile, requiring confident use of self-directed learning, researching and writing skills.
Please consider that you have the necessary study time to complete the programme within eight months. If you are interested in applying, please complete the form when applications open and submit to the Baby Friendly office. This form will be considered anonymously against set criteria and participants 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.
We are committed to inclusion and accessibility in our selection process. Therefore, as part of the application process, you will be asked to complete an anonymous equality monitoring form. This data will help us to review our processes and ensure they provide equitable access to participants. This is not compulsory and your answers will not be used as part of the selection process. Due to the high volume of applications received, participants will be selected first on the following criteria and thereafter based on a randomised selection process:
- Applications which are filled in completely and correctly
- Applications which are of high quality
If you have previously applied and been unsuccessful you are welcome to apply again and will be considered under current application criteria.
Once accepted, the participant will be asked to formally enrol in the course and pay the associated fee.
4. Why is the Practitioner programme continuing to be paused?
The Practitioner programme currently remains paused. Please keep an eye out for updates via email and on our website.
5. 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 pace and in their own way over the eight-month period in order to gather the evidence needed to complete their portfolio and prepare for their interview (Leaders only).
The programme is not a taught course. Allocating time to learn from a distance and be self-directed is important. A list of suggested learning resources is provided for each Vision Statement which is designed to guide the participant as they work towards meeting the capabilities. The resources provided are not an exhaustive list and participants are encouraged to use independently sourced material and their own knowledge and experience to complete the learning log and portfolio.
Throughout the programme, there will be monthly Support Seminars held via Microsoft Teams to provide guidance and structure and to enable you to ask questions about the Vision Statements. There is also time set aside during each session for peer-to-peer support. Although these seminars are not compulsory, attendance will be monitored and they are designed to facilitate learning and will help you get the most from the programme.
6. What will be assessed?
The six overarching Vision Statement 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 or Leader) to positively contribute to achieving the vision. These are outlined below.
Participants are asked to complete a portfolio of their learning, experience and reflection related to each Vision Statement and associated capabilities. The portfolio consists of short essays, activities and reflective exercises to complete, as well as a learning log to record the resources accessed during the programme. This structured framework is intended to support the learner to evidence the knowledge and skills they already have, whilst 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.
Threaded throughout the Vision Statements and capabilities, we will also be looking for evidence of the following principles:
- A child rights focus
- A person-centred approach
- Safe, effective and evidence-based care
- Communication skills, in terms of respect, sensitivity, empathy and 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 the learner’s role and when to
signpost/refer as appropriate
- A multi-disciplinary and inter-professional approach
Participants are expected to demonstrate that they have considered the importance of ensuring safety for the baby, their mothers, parents and for relevant staff at all times. Participants are also expected to consider issues around social justice including race, gender, sexual orientation and the social and cultural context of lived experience.
7. Portfolio submission and assessment
The programme is very structured, with distinct pieces of work required for the Vision Statements 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?
- Have I considered the marking criteria and how marks are allocated?
- Does my work adhere to the principles above?
Providing that you can answer yes to these four 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 eight-month deadline. All portfolios will be marked against the assessment criteria.
- Advocates will be awarded their qualification based solely on their portfolio submission.
- Leaders will undertake a virtual 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. The questions will be based around the portfolio submission. All interviews are recorded to allow for external moderation.
8. Marking and results
For each Vision Statement, participants are asked to submit work that demonstrates
- Knowledge and understanding
- 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.
The portfolios are marked anonymously and moderated externally before being approved and ratified by the Qualifications Framework Board. Advocates will receive their qualification based on the results of marking and moderation of 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. Qualifications will be awarded based on the combined results from the portfolio and interview.
What happens when I pass?
- The participants who achieve the required standard will be awarded a Baby Friendly qualification.
- The participant’s name 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.
9. Your concerns answered
What happens if I don’t succeed at first?
In order to achieve a pass, participants need to achieve 70% on each Vision Statement individually and at least 70% overall. Participants who are referred on one or more Vision Statement on the first attempt are offered one resubmission opportunity to achieve a pass.
What happens my circumstances mean that I can’t continue on the course?
Participants who face challenges on the course which may prevent them from continuing with the programme or completing on time can submit mitigation with evidence to the Programme Lead using the Extenuating Circumstances form. More detail on this is provided at the beginning of the programme.
What happens if I can’t make the interview date?
Participants will be given plenty of notice for the interview dates. We ask that you hold time on these dates in anticipation of your interview slot which will be arranged towards the end of the programme.
10. Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Within the eight months, how much time do I need to allow to complete the course?
A: Feedback from qualified participants is that the programme ‘takes more time than you anticipate, and the time goes very quickly’. We therefore strongly recommend that you think about how you can fit the programme into your everyday life and when would be the best time to apply. The programme has also been reported by participants to be academically challenging but worthwhile, requiring confident use of self-directed learning, researching and writing skills.
Each month there is a Support Seminar (1.5 hours) 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.
Q: Can I do a qualification if I am a volunteer?
A: Volunteering can capture a wide range of skills and capabilities. We welcome applications from those in an unpaid or volunteer role who are able to demonstrate the criteria required for the application. We encourage you to consider whether your role is related to implementing or advocating for the Baby Friendly standards.
Q: I am an 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 two 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 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 two distinct, 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 two 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 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.
11. 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 or Leader) to fit your experience. If you are unsure which qualification is right for you, you can find more information in the overview document (available as a download on this page) and in the FAQs.
Have you demonstrated sufficient experience? (Leaders)
In order to provide the most useful and relevant programme possible, applicants applying for the 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.