We were delighted to learn this week that the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has commissioned Ipsos to run an Infant Feeding Survey in 2023.

The Institute of Health Visiting, alongside many organisations and charities working to support breastfeeding and responsive infant feeding, has been calling for the reinstatement of a national Infant Feeding Survey since it was stopped in 2010. Previously, the Infant Feeding Survey (IFS) was conducted every five years between 1975 and 2010. Valuable data on infant feeding trends were collected in the eight IFS reports that were published during this time.

Following what has been described as ‘an extensive period of development’, on Monday 9 October, DHSC announced that the Infant Feeding Survey 2023 (IFS) for England will begin in mid-October. The reinstatement of the IFS is good news – the lack of evidence on infant feeding practices over the last 13 years has significantly limited our ability to track progress on the prevalence and duration of breastfeeding, and this has hampered policy and practice developments in this area. The main aim of the survey is to provide estimates on the incidence, prevalence, and duration of breastfeeding and other feeding practices adopted by mothers in the first year after their baby is born, as well as wider influences on feeding choices.

This will be the first IFS since the survey was last conducted in 2010 and will provide valuable information on infant feeding behaviours and related factors including:

  • internationally comparable data on prevalence and duration of breastfeeding
  • the use of foods and drinks other than breastmilk in infancy
  • infant feeding help and information received by mothers
  • information about bottle and breastfeeding in public places
  • parental leave, return to work, working hours and facilities provided for expressing and storing breastmilk, or breastfeeding at work

DHSC and the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) have started sharing information on the survey to raise awareness among potential survey participants. This includes the placement of posters in maternity units and postnatal settings, and posts on social media channels. Through these channels, people will be directed to the IFS website where they can find further information on the IFS and opt out from taking part, if required.

Gail Barker, iHV Expert Adviser for Infant Feeding said:

“The IFS 2023 is a really exciting step forward. It will allow us to gain a current viewpoint on infant feeding practices, based on today’s parents, to help us influence and inform health visiting practice to better meet families’ needs. It is really positive to think about the opportunities this will provide for us in better understanding the influences on parents’ infant feeding decisions – the opportunity to consider infant feeding through the lens of today’s modern society with all of its digital influences, the post-COVID impact, the way we work, and the makeup of families in 2023.

“The survey findings will also provide valuable information on the extent of commercial influences and the marketing of other food and drinks on breastfeeding decisions, alongside the all-important service provision for families. These will all influence how we move forward with our Family Hubs and improve support for families.”

Who will take part in the survey?

DHSC and Ipsos will be contacting more than 20,000 mothers who have recently given birth to take part in this survey. Only individuals who have been selected for the IFS and receive an invitation letter will be able to participate in the survey. Ipsos will only be contacting a random selection of mothers who gave birth in Summer 2023, so not all mothers will be receiving a survey.

What does the IFS involve?

Individuals who have been selected to take part in the IFS will receive an invitation to complete a questionnaire that will be sent to them when their baby is around 9-12-weeks-old. If they complete the first questionnaire, and consent to further contact, they will receive a second questionnaire when their baby is around 4-6 months and a third at around 8-10 months after the birth.

Ipsos will start sending the IFS out in mid-October 2023. If anyone does not want to be included in the study, or receive a survey, they can complete the form on the opting out of the survey page.

How can you help?

Please promote the survey where you work and encourage women to complete it if selected.

You can find out more about the Infant Feeding Survey 2023 on the IFS website.

This week has seen a raft of policy publications from the Department of Health and Social Care. Read our quick update and signposting to resources:

The  Health and Care Act 2022 has introduced new architecture to the health and care system, with England formally divided into 42 area-based Integrated Care Systems, covering populations of around 500,000 to 3 million people. Integrated Care Systems are partnerships of health and care organisations that come together to plan and deliver joined up services, with the aim of improving health and reducing inequalities for people who live and work in their area.

Specifically this will lead to the establishment of Integrated Care Boards (ICBs) and Integrated Care Partnerships (ICPs). Previously, Health and wellbeing boards (HWBs) have been a key mechanism for driving joined-up working at a local level since they were established in 2013.

In this new landscape, HWBs continue to play an important role in:

  • instilling mechanisms for joint working across health and care organisations
  • setting strategic direction to improve the health and wellbeing of people locally

The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) will therefore be updating the guidance on the HWBs general duties and powers to provide information on how HWBs currently work and clarify their role within the system – including working with ICBs and ICPs.

There is a significant step forward in national policy (in which iHV had an input) to see that the usual reference to children and young people, now includes the addition of ‘babies’ in their own right – this guidance marks a key step in ensuring that babies, children, young people and families will be prioritised in the new Integrated Care Systems. Amongst other provisions, the guidance sets out that engagement on strategies should be inclusive of children, young people and their families, including new and expectant parents. There is also an explicit section on how babies, children, young people, and families should be considered in the content of the strategies.

New Guidance

  • Health and wellbeing boards: draft guidance for engagement
    This draft guidance for engagement sets out the role of health and wellbeing boards following publication of the Health and Care Act 2022.
  • Guidance on the preparation of integrated care strategies
    This is statutory guidance for integrated care partnerships on the preparation of integrated care strategies. This document contains an introduction, 2 sections of statutory guidance on the preparation of the integrated care strategy including involvement and content, and a section of non-statutory guidance relating to the publication and review of the integrated care strategy.
  • Health overview and scrutiny committee principles
    This guidance sets out the expectations on how health overview and scrutiny committees should work with integrated care systems (ICSs) to ensure they are locally accountable to their communities.

We have worked with The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), Royal Colleges and other partners to produce the consensus statement for information sharing and suicide prevention.

The consensus statement sets out how and when clinicians should share information about patients, within the legal framework, where this may help prevent suicide.

The statement aims to address the balance between reducing suicide risk through sharing of information, and respecting patient confidentiality.

This document replaces the original consensus statement published in 2014. The updated statement reflects the current legal position, including the implementation of the UK General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR).

In addition, the Zero Suicide Alliance (ZSA) has produced guidance for frontline staff on how and when they should share information about patients where this may help prevent suicide (SHARE: consent, confidentiality and information sharing in mental healthcare and suicide prevention – guidance for health and social care staff on how to use the consensus statement and how to engage with patients when discussing confidentiality and consent to share information. The ZSA guidance should be read alongside the consensus statement.

The SHARE resource, developed by the Zero Suicide Alliance (ZSA), is designed to support health and social care staff on:


The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock MP, has outlined his vision for the future health and care system.

Dr Cheryll Adams CBE, Executive Director, iHV said:

“The Institute very much welcomes this long overdue focus on prevention.  We hope that it is understood that effective prevention starts at the start of life or earlier.  Investing then can ensure a much healthier population who stand a much better chance of realising the Minister’s ambitions. We hope that this vision therefore will be accompanied by new investment into health visiting, national standards for best practice and a ring-fenced budget.”

The document sets out the government’s vision for:

  • stopping health problems from arising in the first place
  • supporting people to manage their health problems when they do arise

The goal is to improve healthy life expectancy by at least 5 extra years, by 2035, and to close the gap between the richest and poorest.