Published on: 22 August 2023

Teams who help bring the next generation into the world have launched a programme which will educate and support families as they set out on parenthood.

South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust is working towards achieving the UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative.

It is led alongside the World Health Organisation to help transform healthcare for babies, parents and families.


Infant Feeding Lead Midwife Stacey McFarlane, Matron Melissa Letouze, Divisional Director for Family Care Claire McManus, back, with Head of Midwifery Dawn Edmundson and Executive Director of Nursing, Midwifery and AHPs Melanie Johnson.

The standard helps public services better support them with feeding and developing a close and loving relationship.

This ensures they get the best possible start in life, with the programme leading to a nationally recognised mark of quality of care.

It supports maternity, neonatal, health visiting and children’s centre services and also works with universities to ensure newly qualified midwives and health visitors have the strong foundation of knowledge needed to support families.

NHS organisations are following it as part of the Long Term Plan, which sets out how the service will develop so it is fit for the future.

The Trust has begun its first steps to achieving the accreditation by signing a Certificate of Commitment.

The journey, which will take several years to achieve, will see its staff undergo training and learn how to give advice and support to help patients and their loved ones.

It will focus on helping parents form a bond with their child, information on how a baby’s brain develops and what they can do to help them be healthy.

It will also share information on breastfeeding and formula feeding.

Part of this work will be aimed at improving its breastfeeding rates.

In the early stages, around half of the babies the Trust delivers are breastfed and this falls to 26% in South Tyneside and 32% in Sunderland as they get older.

The Maternity Team’s work follows on from the Trust’s Neonatal Unit, which launched its own UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative last spring.

Melanie Johnson, Executive Director of Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professionals, and the Trust’s Breastfeeding Guardian for Maternity and Neonatal.

She said:

"Our Maternity services across our hospitals and our community teams are fully behind our plans to achieve this standard.

"We know it will help us focus on supporting parents form that close relationship with their newborn and set them up for their life together.

"We are driven to help parents who choose to breastfeed their baby. Our midwives and nursery nurses offer lots of help to those who are expecting and in those days, weeks and months after their delivery.

"This accreditation will build on the work already put in by our Neonatal Team and see us invest yet more in terms of expertise, training and education. We know learning is key to making our service strong and supportive."