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Should new mothers be offered financial incentives to breastfeed?

Friday 15th December 2017
A new study suggests that financial rewards could help women to stick with breastfeeding, but the Royal College of Midwives has expressed some concerns. Image: lolostock via iStock
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    Offering financial incentives to expectant and new mothers to take up breastfeeding could help to boost the number of women who feed their babies in this way, the results of a recent pilot suggest.

    A trial carried out by the University of Sheffield and the University of Dundee saw over 10,000 new mothers throughout the UK offered shopping vouchers worth up to £120 if they were breastfeeding their babies - or expressing milk for them - when they were two weeks old, ten days after birth and again at six weeks old.

    If the mothers continued to breastfeed their babies until they reached six months of age, they were eligible for £80 more of shopping vouchers.

    Of the participants, almost half (46 per cent) decided to sign up to the scheme, with over 40 per cent of these women claiming at least one voucher as a result of their efforts to stick with breastfeeding.

    The researchers asked the women how they felt about the initiative and received a positive response, with many of the new mothers saying that the financial incentive did indeed encourage them to make breastfeeding work for them and their newborn.

    Having a baby can be an expensive time in people's lives, so this financial support would most likely be welcomed by many. However, the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) expressed some concerns, highlighting that not all women are able to breastfeed so it would therefore be unfair for them to miss out on extra financial support.

    Gill Walton, chief executive officer of the RCM, commented: "The RCM believes the motive for breastfeeding cannot be rooted by offering financial reward.

    "If midwives and healthcare professionals have enough time to spend with women to not only offer them the information about the benefits that breastfeeding has for both mother and baby, but also to support them in starting, this would help."

    Written by James Puckle

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