This morning the government announced plans for a new pilot scheme to encourage breastfeeding among mothers. New mums will be offered up to £200 of shopping vouchers as a incentive to breastfeed their child. The pilot in South Yorkshire and Derbyshire is to be funded by the medical research sector and government and will start from now until March 2014.
It isn’t the first time the government have offered financial incentive to parents. Remember the healthy eating maternity grant? During my pregnancy in 2009 I was given a contribution towards my food bill at 25 weeks to encourage healthy eating during pregnancy. At the time I wondered why it was at this stage of pregnancy? Surely if I wanted to eat healthy during pregnancy I would have got a grasp on it by 25 weeks? The scheme was dropped and never replaced.
Yes there are low breastfeeding rates in the UK and yes something should be done to help educate mothers of all ages in regards to their options of feeding their child. Should it feel enforced with a cash bung during those first few months? I don’t think so.
For me, it smells of throwing money at a problem without due care and thought. I read this piece from Dawn Brown this morning highlighting just one of the pressures a new mum can feel when not being able to or having to stop breastfeeding for health issues.
In fact I now have more questions on how they will run the scheme. Will mums feel so desperate for financial aid that they will teeter on the edge of PND? Is the cash really needed by parents and could they benefit from having a better maternity services for a start.
Giving parents more cash isn’t proactively gaining perspective on the situation. In a time where we know there are midwife shortages and a lack of peer support groups we should be surely looking toward providing a better all round service for every parent? By ploughing the money into a better maternity service with more info and support in every area of parenthood everyone would benefit. It could mean more breastfeeding education, more PND awareness and what about support for dads too?
There is also a slight edge of punishing those that can’t or won’t. After all shouldn’t our parenting be our choice? How about rather than splash the cash as handouts we educate those that may not have considered breastfeeding? Go into schools, use the media, make sure there is a peer support group in every town and make breastfeeding a norm?
Thoughts from our team this morning.
Claire: From experience of being a peer supporter, women need to be listened to, offered fact-based advice from a person who ideally has the soft skills to adapt their counselling style to the person’s preferred learning style. The government could invest in a peer support programme with that cash, one that appeals to all socio-economic groups. There are younger mums who breastfeed, so it’s about using these cases to tap into the demographic who still don’t choose to breastfeed or give up due to lack of support.
Vicky: I think most mums if they are fully educated of the benefits of breastfeeding, would want to breastfeed (although there will always be some who for whatever reason…vanity (don’t want droopy boobs), fear (of baby biting or showing boob in public) or they just don’t want to). Most mums try it but many stop I think because no-one has been honest enough to tell them that it can hurt so much you’ll want to cry to start with! Only my mother-in-law was honest and fully prepared me for the pain and ways to help tackle it to continue feeding. Otherwise the message I had from everyone else was that if you are doing properly it shouldn’t hurt! They forgot to say that you need to get past the pain first. So if you aren’t prepared for that I don’t think any incentive is going to make you continue! The money should be put towards better care for new mums and avoiding PND and giving them more support by providing early days classes to help mums get a grip.
Nancy: Will Mums really do it for £200? (bear in mind that exclusively breastfeeding your baby saves you significantly more than that it formula costs). Unfortunately, its the middle class mums who do breastfeed who would undoubtable receive the payment, but these are not the people who would most benefit from such a payment. In my opinion the money would be better spent prmoting and normalising breastfeeding and a healthy attitiude to our bodies in general, right from pre-school age.