Mums are being offered cash incentives to breastfeed their baby to six months in a new scheme being trialled.
The joint government and research sector initiative – which will see mums from parts of Chesterfield offered up to £200 in High Street vouchers – is designed to boost breastfeeding rates in deprived areas.
Mothers in Boythorpe, Birdholme and St Augustine in Chesterfield will be offered vouchers worth up to £120 if their babies receive breastmilk until they are six weeks old and a further £80 if their babies continue to receive breastmilk up to six months.
Principal investigator Dr Clare Relton, from the University of Sheffield’s School of Health and Related Research, said: “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.
“Breastmilk is perfectly designed for babies and provides all they need for the first six months of their life. The scheme offers vouchers to mothers who breastfeed as a way of acknowledging both the value of breastfeeding to babies, mothers and society, and the effort involved in breastfeeding.”
Under the scheme, which is also being trialled in parts of Sheffield, midwives will offer women the chance to take part and will be asked to verify whether women are breastfeeding.
Lindsay Rhodes, who lives in Holme Hall with her husband and five children, has been breastfeeding for 530 weeks of her life. She said: “I think it’s a bit silly. It is good that they are looking into ways to encourage breastfeeding, but I don’t think mums can be bought.
“The money could be spent on other things, like education to teach those mums who think they couldn’t feed, that there are ways around the problems.”
Her comments were echoed by Jaqcueline Bone, leader of the Derbyshire-branch of breastfeeding support group, La Leche League, who said that more money should be given to supporting new mums.
“I don’t think financial incentives are ideal” she said. “A lot of women think they can’t breastfeed, or that they don’t have enough milk. The vast majority of times, this isn’t true. They often just don’t have the right information to do it successfully.”
This isn’t the first time the NHS has offered incentives. In 2012, the Derbyshire Times reported how the NHS were offering £750 to pregnant women to encourage them to quit smoking.
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