Stirling’s health visiting programme recognised for its breastfeeding training

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Unicef accreditation for breastfeeding
Clockwise from bottom left: Dr Sara Rodriguez-Martin (Lecturer Lead Midwife); Janet Dalzell (UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative); Alison Hackett (Programme Director of MSc Early Years Practice (Health Visiting)); Ashley Shepherd (Head of Health Sciences).

The health visiting team at the University of Stirling has received a prestigious award from UNICEF in recognition of the high levels of breastfeeding training it provides to its students.

Alison Hackett, Programme Director of Stirling’s award-winning MSc Early Years Practice (Health Visiting), received the Baby Friendly Award on behalf of the University from Janet Dalzell, Professional Lead for Scotland, UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative.

Mrs Hackett said: “We are proud to receive the Baby Friendly Award from UNICEF as it reflects our ongoing commitment to ensuring a high standard of training in breastfeeding for all student health visitors graduating from our programme at Stirling.

“Many women give up breastfeeding before they want to because of difficulties which could have been prevented if skilled help had been on hand. By ensuring that our students are fully trained in how to help a mother breastfeed her child, more women will be able to breastfeed their babies for longer. Regardless of how a mother chooses to feed her baby, she can be sure that she will be supported to form a strong loving relationship with her newborn – through having maximum skin-to-skin contact and understanding how her baby communicates with her and needs her to respond.”


Breastfeeding protects babies against a wide range of serious illnesses, including gastroenteritis and respiratory infections in infancy, as well as cardiovascular disease, asthma, diabetes, and obesity in later life. It can also reduce the mother’s risk of some cancers and supports the mental health of both mother and baby.

The Baby Friendly Initiative is a global programme which aims to transform healthcare for babies, their mothers, and families as part of a wider global partnership between UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO). In the UK, the Baby Friendly Initiative works with public services and universities to better support families with feeding and developing close, loving relationships to ensure that all babies get the best possible start in life.

Under the initiative, Dr Ashley Shepherd, Head of Health Sciences at Stirling, has been appointed the University’s UNICEF Baby Friendly Guardian. The Guardian protects and supports the Baby Friendly standards, including compliance with the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes.


The Baby Friendly University Award was launched in the UK in 2008 – the first such award anywhere in the world – to ensure high levels of training in breastfeeding are incorporated in midwifery and health visitor training courses. The award recognises universities which have implemented best practice in breastfeeding training and has passed a thorough external assessment by UNICEF staff.

Sue Ashmore, UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative Programme Director, said: “We are delighted that the University of Stirling has received this award.

“Our work to support breastfeeding is based on extensive and resounding evidence that breastfeeding saves lives, improves health, and cuts costs in every country worldwide, rich and poor alike. Working towards full Baby Friendly accreditation means that newly qualified health visitors from the University of Stirling will have the strong foundation of knowledge needed to care for families and to help mothers and babies receive the breastfeeding support they require.”

The University of Stirling is top five in Scotland for Nursing (Complete University Guide 2022). The MSc Early Years Practice Health Visiting was crowned Nurse Education Provider of the Year (Post-registration) at the 2021 Student Nursing Times Awards and has an 86% student satisfaction rating (Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey 2021).

For more information on the MSc, visit the programme webpage.