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Tower Hamlets Health Visiting and Family Partnership team achieves UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative (BFI) level three status

Accreditation is a mark of quality care for babies and mothers in Tower Hamlets

Posted on: 20 October 2023

The BFI accreditation programme is recognised across many government documents in all four UK countries and by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

The BFI is an evidence-based programme for services that provide care for pregnant mothers and their families. 

BFI standards provide a roadmap for services to improve care through a staged accreditation programme with three levels, which are then topped off with the Gold Sustainability award.

This involves having policies ensuring that all Health Visiting and FNP staff are trained in infant feeding and relationship building.

What this means

The accreditation means that our Health Visiting and Family Partnership Nursing teams are enabled to better support families with feeding and developing close and loving parent-infant relationships ensuring that all babies get the best start in life. 

They are skilled at providing sensitive, effective care and support to mothers and help them to make informed choices about how they feed and care for their child. 

Since the BFI was established, breastfeeding rates have increased by 20% across the UK. Parents who have chosen to formula feed their babies are also supported to feed their baby safely and responsively.

Our BFI journey

The Health Visiting and FNP team started the journey toward accreditation in 2008 when they submitted a certificate of commitment towards becoming baby friendly.

They achieved level one accreditation in July 2008, level two in January 2010 and level three in 2011.

We had reaccreditation visits every two to three years after we reached level three to ensure we work maintaining standards. Our last reaccreditation was in 2017 because of delays during the global pandemic and changes in management.

Hannah Spiring MSc, Community Infant Feeding Coordinator, has led on this programme since coming into post during the summer 2021.

Action plan

Our last reaccreditation visit was in October 2022, but we fell short of achieving level three. We then offered employees updated training, and families were audited about on the areas requiring improvement before we submitted a new report to UNICEF.

UNICEF conducted a virtual follow-up visit with us in August 2023 and called about 45 mothers in our care to ask them for feedback.

We made a massive improvement between the October 2022 and August 2023 visit, and we were reaccredited at level three. This accreditation lasts for three years.

The next steps

Going forward, we will continue working toward achieving the Gold sustainability award, which will enable us to imbed high quality care into long-term practice.

Hannah said: “Gaining this achievement has been a satisfying culmination of all the work I have been doing since coming into the role two years ago as well as the training and support I provided to our previous infant feeding coordinator.

“The work has been challenging, but knowing the difference we’re making for our families and the knowledge we’re gaining through reaccreditation makes the job worthwhile.

“I’m grateful for the support from Phoebe Kalungi and Amelie Gonguet, Clinical Support Workers who helped to recruit mothers for the audits, all our Senior Management Team, our two BFI Guardians, Katie Cole and Simon Brownleader, as well as all of the members of the Health Visiting, FNP, baby feeding and wellbeing teams.”