It has recently been announced that new mothers in parts of Yorkshire and Derbyshire will be offered £120 in vouchers for high street stores including Argos, Debenhams and Asda, if they sign forms declaring that they have breastfed their baby for six weeks. They will then be given a further £80 if they are still breastfeeding at six months.
This “bribing” by the NHS to try and improve breastfeeding rates has been met with very mixed opinions. There is no guarantee that this money will not be spent on tobacco and alcohol.
The NHS has stated that if this pilot scheme leads to an increase in breastfeeding rates, then a national trial will begin next year.
Even those people leading this pilot study have admitted that it is going to be impossible to know whether or not the women are actually breastfeeding or not. Janet Fyle, a professional policy advisor to the Royal College of Midwives has stated that “the motive for breastfeeding cannot be rooted by offering financial reward.” She said that attempts to improve breastfeeding rates needed to tackle social and cultural problems.
Although we are all aware of the advantages of breastfeeding in the first few weeks of life, I am not as convinced that breastfeeding until the baby is six months old offers huge advantages compared to formula and can actually be very difficult for many women.
I have three children, all of whom were breastfed. However, after the first three months they were given a combination of breast milk and formula – would that mean I would only be eligible for half the money then?