Published on: 14 March 2024

Teams working to meet a world-wide standard to help give babies the best start in life through breastfeeding and bonding are celebrating after reaching a series of milestones.

South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust has set out to achieve the UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative (BFI).

South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust is celebrating after meeting a series of milestones in the UNICEF UK BFI..JPG

Neonatal and Maternity colleagues from South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust pictured as they celebrate meeting a series of milestones in the UNICEF UK BFI.

This is run with the World Health Organisation to help improve healthcare for babies, along with their parents and families

The standard helps public services offer better support with feeding, as well as helping them develop and forge close and loving relationships. Achieving it means parents know the services has been recognised for the support on offer.

The process follows three stages. The first is the written commitment, which also involves much of the groundwork to help plan ahead.

It is followed by the knowledge and skills section. This focuses on training for staff, such as understanding the principles of breastfeeding, supporting infant feeding, how they can help support good relationships, manage challenges and promote positive communication

The final part is showing the knowledge and skills of the staff is embedded into everyday practice and involves an assessment through parents and their experiences. Ongoing checks are made once this is achieved to ensure the team continue to meet the standard.

Sunderland Royal Hospital’s Neonatal Unit was first to set out on its journey. It is now celebrating completing stage two and is looking to set out on the final part of the programme.

A £900,000 revamp of the department is under way as part of the Trust’s plans to improve the unit. As part of that project, a new expressing room is being set up, while other areas will make it a better place for parents and siblings to spend time with the baby. Accommodation is also being created, so they can stay on site and be close to the unit.

The Trust’s Maternity Department has completed stage one and is now preparing to start its training sessions. The two-day course will look at the building blocks of helping parents feed, the challenges they may face with a newborn and those reluctant to feed, high risk babies, such as those born pre-term and those born to a mother with diabetes and smaller babies.

This will be for all staff who work clinically across Maternity services with the Trust.

The South Tyneside 0-19 Team, which is based in the community and includes health visitors, is working in partnership with South Tyneside Council’s Family Hubs to achieve the standard and has just set out on the process. South Tyneside has been awarded funding through the Department for Education’s Family Hubs Start for Life Programme to develop and enhance infant feeding services.

This so that mothers and families receive seamless and consistent support throughout their infant feeding journey.

At the start of this year, following a stage three assessment, the Sunderland 0-19 Growing Healthy Team became fully accredited as Baby Friendly. The team is led by Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust.

Melanie Johnson is Executive Director of Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professionals at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust.

She said:

"Achieving the UNICEF UK BFI across our services which welcome newborns and see them develop in those early months and years is our goal. I’m so proud of the work which has been put in by the teams so far and now they have the drive to push on to the next stage.

"It’s not a quick or easy process, but quite rightly involves a lot of preparation and planning at all points to make sure we are meeting every part of what is asked for us.

"All of this work means we are doing the very best by our families and their babies, giving them the best start through feeding and nutrition and helping them form those close, special bonds between them.

"I know the good work will continue as each works towards the next part of their journey."

Councillor Adam Ellison, South Tyneside Council’s Lead Member for Children and Families’ Social Care, said:

"Family Hubs run a whole range of programmes designed to help families develop close and loving bonds with their newborns. Support with breastfeeding is a core element of this.

"Being part of UNICEF’s Baby Friendly Initiative means that families have the reassurance of knowing that staff at the Hubs are trained to the highest standards and can support women along every step of their infant feeding journey."

More about the UNICEF UK BFI can be found through