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Improving support for early parent-infant relationships in the UK and beyond

Professor Fiona Dykes and colleagues in the Maternal and Infant Nutrition and Nurture (MAINN) Group have been publishing work in the protection and support of breastfeeding since 1995.

The World Health Organisation/UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative (BFI) is a global initiative that aims to optimise infant feeding practices. In 2013, the UNICEF UK BFI updated the evidence for the BFI, with fifteen publications led by Professor Fiona Dykes being extensively cited as key supporting evidence. This research contributed to a significant shift in the underpinning ethos of the BFI for relationship development between parent and infant to be at the heart of infant feeding care. The research led to changes in the UNICEF UK BFI standards that includes staff education, university education, assessment processes and associated resources.

This work has helped create transformational change within hospital and community maternity cultures by shifting the previous exclusive focus upon promoting breastfeeding to one centred on the parent-infant relationship and the grass-roots involvement of staff and families. This paradigm shift towards relationships is now being embraced in over 150 countries delivering positive impacts on breastfeeding rates and contributing towards associated impacts in nine Sustainable Development Goals.