Should new mums be paid to breastfeed?

This new incentive sees women being offered shopping vouchers worth $206

Would you be more inclined to breastfeed your baby if you were going to be financially rewarded for the effort?

Heavy debate and outrage surrounds a new initiative that is being held in less socio-economic areas of the UK which will see new mothers being rewarded financially if they continuously breastfeed their child for a certain amount of time.

While some advocacy groups are outraged, calling it blatant bribery, others are heralding it as an ingenious way to prompt mothers that may otherwise have been ambivalent about breastfeeding their child.

This from The Australian:

“Mums in Derbyshire, central England, and its neighbour South Yorkshire, will be offered shopping vouchers worth STG120 ($A206) if they breastfeed for the first six weeks, rising to STG200 if they continue for six months.

Some 130 women from deprived areas will take part in the pilot scheme, which aims to establish whether financial incentives can boost a practice believed to bring significant health benefits to newborn babies.

“The UK has one of the worst breastfeeding rates in the world and breastfeeding rates vary very widely across different parts of the country,” said Clare Relton of Sheffield University, which is running the pilot in collaboration with the government, on Tuesday.

“Babies who are breastfed have fewer health problems such as upset tummies and chest infections, and are less likely to develop diabetes and obesity when they are older.”

A six-week-old baby born into an affluent family in Britain is four times more likely to be breastfed than one in a deprived area, she added.

The scheme, being rolled out next year, will not be closely policed, relying on midwives and health care nurses to monitor and report back to authorities. This alone has raised questions about the usefulness and reliability of the scheme.

Lisa Watts, a blogger and mother of two, based in the UK believes that Mums don’t need financial incentive, they need support:

“Where I think we really need the help is with offering more mums who actively want and choose to breastfeed support and not by dangling a financial incentive. We know breastfeeding rates have picked up but it is the decline in mums who continue to breastfeed after six weeks where help is needed.

Would it not make more sense to put the money into health visitors and maternity staff who can help mums breastfeed past the first six weeks?

There were many times that I felt like I was unable to continue breastfeeding past six weeks. My boobs hurt, the growth spurt kicked in and I felt like daisy the cow. A one woman feeding machine. But with guidance and support I was able to get through it. I’m not sure that I would have done the same for the sake of £200.”

Similarly, Wake Up hosts Natasha Exelby and Natarsha Belling expressed strong opposition to the scheme on yesterday’s program.

Although as Mia Freedman pointed out in her piece on iVillage yesterday called ‘why I think paying mothers to breastfeed is a great idea,’ the lure of £200 may be exactly why a mother struggling financially considers and continues with breastfeeding.

“Sure. It’s not just about money. But for some women who are struggling financially, it might just tip the balance. And anyway, how can giving these women a financial incentive to try something new possibly be considered a bad thing?

Incentivising public health messages with cash is not unprecedented. In Australia, we incentivise vaccination, with parents receiving the Maternity Immunisation Allowance for vaccinating their kids. While there are currently no plans to introduce these kinds of schemes pertaining to breastfeeding in Australia, I would have no problem if there was.”

Women, wherever they live in the world, breastfeed or don’t breastfeed for all kinds of reasons. For some women it is medically unachievable, others just simply don’t want to. The thing is, it is a personal choice but it also needs to be an educated one. Does the fact that money is being offered to make breastfeeding more attractive necessarily a bad thing?

So where do you stand? Is paying a mother to breastfeed merely a bribe or innovative encouragement?

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