Breastfeed your baby for six months and you’ll be rewarded with vouchers worth £200.
That’s the offer being made to 130 new mums in Derbyshire and South Yorkshire, as part of an experimental initiative by the University of Sheffield to try to boost the very low rates of breastfeeding in these areas.
Targeted mums will be given £120 in vouchers for supermarkets or high-street shops if they breastfeed for six weeks, and an additional £80 in vouchers if they continue breastfeeding until their babies are six months old.
If the scheme is successful, a national pilot could be run next year.
The experts running the scheme hope it will help make breastfeeding be seen as more normal. “The UK has one of the worst breastfeeding rates in the world,” says project-leader Dr Clare Relton of Sheffied University, “and breastfeeding rates vary very widely across different parts of the country. If you live in an affluent area, you are four times more likely to be breastfed than if you live in a deprived area.”
Paying mums to breastfeed is, she say, “a way of acknowledging both the value of breastfeeding to babies, mothers and society, and the effort involved in breastfeeding.”
But Janet Fyle, of the Royal College of Midwives, is sceptical of the scheme. “The motive for breastfeeding cannot be rooted by offering financial reward,” she says. “It has to be something that a mother wants to do, in the interest of the health and wellbeing of her child.”
“Investing in midwives and improving antenatal and postnatal care will go a long way to reversing the worryingly low levels of breastfeeding that we are seeing in certain communities.”
MFMers have already been giving us feedback on the scheme on our Twitter feed today, with some people all for it (“As a small scale experiment, surely there are benefits”) and others strongly against (Not for all the tea in China! Mastitis and a starving baby… Nope!”)
What do you think? Please do tell us by posting your reaction in the comment box below.