It was announced today that new mums are going to be paid £200 in shopping vouchers if they breastfeed until their baby is 6 months old. This is going to be trialled in South Yorkshire and Derbyshire and possibly rolled out nationwide next year.
Why should mothers be financially rewarded for breastfeeding? Surely the only incentive should be the benefits that breastfeeding brings for mums and for babies? Wouldn’t it be better to spend this money educating women on these benefits and to provide better support for mothers who need help with breastfeeding? This money could be much better spent by training more breastfeeding support advisors and providing more local latch-on groups.
Surely what the NHS should be doing is making breastfeeding ‘the norm’ by working on awareness campaigns and providing more support on maternity wards where it is really needed? I had a very difficult start on my breastfeeding journey. I stayed in hospital for 2 days in order to perfect the ‘latch on’ and there was only one nurse on the ward who could really offer good advice and support. The rest of the staff were just too busy or did not seem to be interested. Money should be spent improving this support as the first few days are the most crucial on any breastfeeding journey.
Of course there are plenty of women out there who would like nothing better than to breastfeed but for one reason or another are just not able to. This can be extremely upsetting and something that they may always feel sad about. Seeing other women being thrown cash for doing something they are just not able to do will only add insult to injury and could lead to feelings of inferiority and guilt. Why should they be made to feel like this?
My main concern is the monitoring of this scheme. It seems that all mums will have to do is to tell their Health Visitor or Midwife that they are breastfeeding and they will be given these vouchers. Sorry if I sound sceptical here but REALLY??? Undoubtedly, some mums will just see this as a money-making scheme, tell a few white lies and head to the supermarket and buy formula with it. When it comes to assessing the success of this trial, of course it will show that breast feeding rates have gone up how realistic will this actually be?
Breastfeeding rates are low in this country and that definitely needs to be improved but surely the following benefits are enough to persuade mums to breastfeed? (taken from the NCT website)
Benefits for babies
Breast milk is a living fluid and every mum’s milk is tailor-made for her own baby. It contains many ingredients which help a baby stay healthy, such as antibodies to fight germs and hormones that help your baby’s development.
Babies who are breastfed are less likely to have ear or urine infections or get stomach bugs or chest infections.
Babies who are breastfed are less likely to become overweight children.
If your family has allergies, your baby is less likely to get eczema or a wheezy chest if they are breastfed.
Fewer babies who are breastfed get diabetes in childhood.
Premature babies who receive breast milk have a lower risk of necrotizing enterocolitis (a potentially dangerous bowel disorder).
Benefits for mums
Breastfeeding helps reduce the risk of developing certain types of ovarian and breast cancer.
Mums who have breastfed have a lower risk of hip fractures and diabetes when they get older.
Breastfeeding helps your uterus return to its normal size after birth.
Surely this should be incentive enough without resorting to bribery? What do you think?