Factors influencing student midwives' competence and confidence when incorporating UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative (BFI) Education Standards in clinical practice

McIntyre, Helen Rachel (2013) Factors influencing student midwives' competence and confidence when incorporating UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative (BFI) Education Standards in clinical practice. DHSci thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Breastfeeding is crucial in providing optimum nutrition and health for babies' to develop into healthy adults and has important emotional, physical and psychological benefits on maternal health. The UK has stubbornly low breastfeeding initiation and continuation rates. To address this, the government has policies targeting maternity and public health services. Furthermore, UNICEF UK introduced Baby Friendly Initiative (BFI) Hospital Standards in 1998 and Midwifery Education Standards in 2002.

The University of Nottingham adopted BFI Education Standards in 2005 and have maintained accreditation since 2008. The BFI curriculum changes incorporated a knowledge, skills and attitude framework for teaching, learning and assessing. The embedding of positive attitudinal and skills facilitation of breastfeeding within the curriculum changes was essential. The influence of Trust's organisational culture on student learning was considered critical due to its impact on midwives working practises and pre-registration midwifery curricula having a minimum of 50% clinical practice.

There is a lack of information about the efficacy of BFI Education Standards on student learning and application to practice. The aim of this study was to explore factors affecting student midwives competence and confidence when incorporating BFI Education Standards into clinical practice.

Methodology and methods:

A three year longitudinal multiple educational case study of a Bachelor of Midwifery programme commenced in 2009. Ethical and R&D approval were gained from the University and five Trusts, each at different stages of BFI clinical accreditation. The inclusion criteria were any student in the September 2009 midwifery cohort and their allocated midwife mentors.

From a cohort of 32 students, 22 consented and 16 supplied data at each collection point throughout the three years. Students identified 92 midwife mentors, they had worked with, who were then invited to participate; 16 consented and 6 supplied data at each collection point throughout the three years. A total of 92 questionnaires and 70 one hour interviews were conducted.

Data collected from students included questionnaire, individual interview and documentary evidence at 6, 18 and 30 months into the programme. Data from midwife mentors was questionnaire and individual interview at each stage. Documentary evidence was obtained from the students' NMC record of clinical skills and second year biology examination question on infant feeding.

Data analysis used NVivo for qualitative data management, and PAWS for quantitative data analysis. Verbatim transcription of interviews was followed by thematic analysis.


Findings are presented using BFI 'Ten Steps' Standards with the underpinning knowledge, skills and attitude framework. All students considered themselves to be competent and confident in 'normal' aspects of infant feeding but only competent in 'complex' feeding scenarios.

Students self reported the theoretical component was most important to their learning in years 1 and 3 and clinical placements in year 2. Students who were mothers and students working in BFI accredited units had better examination results. Changes in workforce skill mix and reduced community midwife visits were factors in reported gaps of 'complex' breastfeeding learning opportunities. These were addressed by scenario role play. Reductions in Infant Feeding Advisor hours were found to correlate with increased formula supplementation.

Mentors praised students' enhanced theoretical knowledge from their first year, and assessment and planning in the third year. They attributed this to the BFI curriculum. More prescriptive and structured organisational documentation facilitated student learning. Theory practice gaps existed at all five case study sites. At BFI accredited sites mothers and babies were statistically more likely to experience skin-to-skin following any mode of birth (n=1462 p<0.001 phi=0.21). At all sites a normal birth statistically increased the opportunity of mother-baby skin-to-skin (n=1462 p<0.001 phi=0.57) and initiation of breastfeeding (n=1462 p<0.001 phi=0.52).

Students embraced a 'hands-off' technique to support breastfeeding and hand expression of the breast against prevailing clinical role modelling. Techniques students developed were 'shadowing', use of props, use of feeding cues and increasing the accessibility of their knowledge to women through facilitative communication skills. Use of infant feeding tools provided through the curriculum supported student learning. Detail provided within the postnatal data was poor and mirrored by mentors reporting poor use of relevant organisational documentation. Students had little opportunity to develop constructive formula feeding support, sterilisation of feeding equipment and reconstitution of formula milk. Anxiety was expressed by mentors and students in providing support to formula feeding women within a BFI framework. The use of interactive teaching methods and individual assessment through a workshop in year 3 were identified by students as significant to their learning.

Students desire to support women to breastfeed grew over the 3 years. This was independent of personal feeding experiences of students who were mothers and the non-mothers embedded norms. The reinforcement and incremental delivery of the BFI curriculum in each year was identified as essential in this process.


A BFI accredited midwifery curriculum positively impacts on student learning in infant feeding, raises the profile of infant feeding within postnatal care and enables students to create positive experiences for women. This study's findings would recommend that all midwifery curricula embrace BFI Education Standards within a knowledge, skills and attitudes framework.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (DHSci)
Supervisors: Fraser, D.M.
Greatrex-White, S.
Keywords: Breastfeeding promotion, Student midwives, Education of midwives, Midwifery practice
Subjects: W Medicine and related subjects (NLM Classification) > WS Pediatrics
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Health Sciences
Item ID: 27802
Depositing User: Blore, Mrs Kathryn
Date Deposited: 18 Nov 2014 13:13
Last Modified: 19 Oct 2017 21:59
URI: https://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/27802

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