Scaling up breastfeeding in England through the Becoming Breastfeeding Friendly initiative (BBF)

Merritt, Rowena, Kendall, Sally, Eida, Tamsyn, Dykes, Fiona Clare orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-2728-7967 and Pérez‐Escamilla, Rafael (2022) Scaling up breastfeeding in England through the Becoming Breastfeeding Friendly initiative (BBF). Maternal & Child Nutrition . ISSN 1740-8695

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Breastfeeding is the most accessible and cost-effective activity available to public health and has been shown to be one of the most effective preventive measures mothers can take to protect their children's health. Despite the well-documented benefits, the UK has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world. The Becoming Breastfeeding Friendly (BBF) toolkit was developed through highly structured technical and academic collaboration, led by Yale University. It provides an evidence-based process to help countries assess their breastfeeding status and readiness to scale up, and identifies concrete measures countries can take to sustainably increase breastfeeding rates, based on data-driven recommendations. BBF is grounded in the Breastfeeding Gear Model complex adaptive systems framework which is made up of eight simultaneous conditions that sustain breastfeeding. In 2018, a committee of multi-agency stakeholders implemented the BBF process in England, collecting evidence to score the 'gear' components of England's breastfeeding environment against 54 benchmarks. The Training and Programme Delivery gear received the highest score, attributable to existing learning outcomes for health professionals and practitioners, peer supporters and specialist services, although there is a need for greater coordination and integration. The lowest scores were given for Promotion and Coordination, Goals and Monitoring due to the lack of a dedicated national strategy for breastfeeding and poor sharing of localised strategies and programmes. The process generated clear recommendations highlighting the need for more robust routine infant feeding data collection and reporting, and the necessity for strengthening leadership, monitoring and oversight to scale up and sustain breastfeeding.

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