The UNICEF UK baby friendly initiative is based on a global accreditation programme of UNICEF and WHO. The programme is well established in maternity and health visiting services throughout the UK and recently launched bespoke standards for neonatal units to work towards independently. These standards cover:

  • Supporting parents to have a close and loving relationship with their baby

  • Enabling babies to have received breastmilk and to breastfeed when possible.

  • Valuing parents as partners in their babies care.

The initiative seeks to empower neonatal nurses with knowledge and skills to promote breastfeeding, breastmilk use, delivering a transformational cultural shift and bringing parents and nursing staff together in partnership to care for their baby. The Baby Friendly Accreditation is a 3 staged assessment, with each stage taking approximately 1 year to complete.  Before Trusts can embark on the staged assessment process they need to complete a number of training courses.


In 2016, the neonatal unit at Exeter was the first in the UK to receive full UNICEF Baby Friendly Neonatal Accreditation and in mid-2016 both Truro and Bath were successful in securing 3 year grant funding to enable them to achieve the same.

The South West Neonatal Units and the Network is leading the way in the UK to improving outcomes for some of the most vulnerable babies and their families, and new funding from the South West Neonatal Network will help all remaining neonatal units in the region achieve the prestigious Unicef UK Baby Friendly Initiative award. These units include:

  • Southmead, North Bristol NHS Trust

  • Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

  • Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

  • Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust

  • St Michaels, University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust

  • Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust

  • South Devon Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

  • Yeovil District Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

  • Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust

The units will be implementing Unicef UK neonatal standards and so improve care for the most vulnerable babies and their families from across the South West. The standards involve:

  • Supporting parents to have a close and loving relationship with their baby by enabling and encouraging touch, talk and caring for their babies, supporting skin-skin contact, and responsive feeding.

  • Enabling babies to receive breastmilk and to breastfeed when possible, including discussing with parents the critical value of breastmilk for preterm and sick babies’ current and future health and development.

  • Valuing parents as partners in care, including allowing parents 24-hour access to their babies and aiming for parents to be seen as the primary care givers, with clinical staff providing specialised care while acting as teachers and supporters to parents as they learn to care for their baby.

The programme offers a unique opportunity of financial and practical support, with neonatal units receiving expert visits, support with staff training, auditing and project management, and support to cover assessment costs. The programme will start in spring 2017 and further information will be uploaded to this website when available.