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Breast feeding: the baby friendly initiative

BMJ 1998; 317 doi: (Published 14 November 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;317:1385

Unicef's baby friendly initiative is making great progress in UK

  1. Andrew Radford, Programme director,
  2. Cynthia Rickitt, Chair,
  3. Anthony Williams, Chair
  1. UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative, London WC1N 1DZ
  2. National Network of Breastfeeding Coordinators, Department of Health, London SE1 6LW
  3. COMA Panel on Child and Maternal Nutrition St George's Hospital, London SW17 0RE
  4. University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ
  5. Walsall Health Authority Walsall WS1 1TE
  6. University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka
  7. United Nations Fund for Population Activities, Sri Lanka

    EDITOR —We share Malik and Cutting's enthusiasm for Unicef's baby friendly initiative in the United Kingdom but were disappointed that they did not acknowledge the great progress made over the past year.1 It is pessimistic to state that hospitals have been slow to work with the initiative. In fact, almost all units are working towards baby friendly accreditation; 11 British maternity units have achieved the required standard and another 40 have a certificate of commitment. Although Malik and Cutting suggest that hospitals might be demoralised by unachievable targets (such as the 75% breastfeeding rate required for the global baby friendly award), we removed this requirement for the United Kingdom's standard award in order to focus on the support and encouragement of best clinical practice.

    It is also unfair to suggest that the baby friendly initiative is confined to hospitals. On 15 May we launched best practice standards for community healthcare settings, with the support of the minister for public health. This is the first step in introducing the initiative into the community and provides a framework around which clinical accreditation will be developed. The United Kingdom will probably be unique in having a primary care baby friendly award. As with the existing awards, particular emphasis is placed on support for mothers to make informed decisions about feeding their babies.

    Malik and Cutting call for better coordination with existing groups that support mothers; in fact, all four national groups are fully involved with the baby friendly initiative. We were also puzzled by the statement …

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