Should we be giving women shopping vouchers to encourage them to breastfeed? (Picture: Artem_Furman)
We have one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world but I’m not sure mothers should effectively be paid to change this.
That’s what’s happened in Derbyshire and South Yorkshire, where some women were given shopping vouchers worth up to £200 in return for breastfeeding.
This was a trial – a way to encourage more women to breastfeed – deemed so successful it may be extended to other parts of the country.
But is this not putting even more pressure on women who have just given birth?
Not all mothers are physically capable of producing any or enough breast milk to sustain their child.
Should one women out of a group of new mothers, who can’t breastfeed even if she wanted strongly to, be refused financial input when others are rewarded simply because they are able to produce milk?
Time and time again, we argue that a woman’s body is her own, and that she alone has the ability to make decisions as to what she does with it.
Isn’t it patronising to suggest that women are swayed by money when making decisions about what is best for them and their child?
Dr Colin Michie, from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: ‘You’re asking for a payback from some mums who can’t necessarily give it.
‘Not all mothers can breastfeed for a range of reasons – so it’s just not fair.
‘It is essentially a bribe if you’re offering money for breastfeeding.
‘This pilot scheme has been a success – but it would be nice if we could incentivise mums to breastfeed without paying them.’
No-one is doubting the benefits of breastfeeding where possible, but surely there are additional and possible more successful ways of persuading women to give breastfeeding a go.
Interestingly, Vanessa Purdy, 31, one of the mothers involved in the initial pilot, told the BBC ‘It’s that support network, not the money, that spurs you on to continue.
‘It broke down the barriers and got everyone talking about the vouchers.’
I can’t help but feel that channeling financial efforts into breastfeeding support and education services might be a better use of the money rather than shopping vouchers.
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