Under a pilot scheme in the UK, mothers will be paid to breastfeed their own babies. Mothers involved in the initial trial will be paid $340 in food vouchers in instalments at 6 weeks, 3 months and 6 months if they continue to breastfeed their babies in a new initiative to try to boost breastfeeding rates in the UK.
Currently the UK only 1 in 3 babies are breastfed at 6 months, in contrast, according to the Australian Infant Feeding Survey in 2010 around 60% of Australian babies were still receiving some breast milk at 6 months. The responsibility of confirming that a mother is still breastfeeding is on her midwife, so it’s a relatively non-intrusive scheme, in that nobody will be knocking on these mother’s doors to ensure that they are still breastfeeding their babies. 130 mothers from deprived areas of the UK will be taking part in the initial trial as the trial is specifically aimed at mother’s in poorer communities as in the UK a 6 week old baby is 4 times more likely to be breastfed if born into an affluent family.
On the one hand, I think it’s positive that their government is trying to tackle what is an important topic for infant health, breastfeeding isn’t the only factor for infant health but breast milk is ideal nutrition for infants. Also if formula feeding is the “norm” in less affluent families, yet it’s also significantly more expensive feeding method when compared to breastfeeding, then changing that trend by increasing breastfeeding rates will benefit those families by reducing their weekly expenses.
This brings me to why I don’t think this idea makes sense; formula feeding is already more expensive. Breastfeeding saves more than $340 over 6 months by not having to by formula, so if money would influence the decision of whether or not to breastfeed, then wouldn’t it already be the preferred choice of parents that this scheme would benefit? Unless people don’t know that formula is more expensive, if many mothers in these communities haven’t seen or known people who breastfeed, they might not actually realise that breastfeeding is generally free and formula adds up.
I’d worry that by offering a financial incentive to breastfeed it could put breastfeeding into the category of a “job”, making breastfeeding appear less desirable option as frankly you couldn’t pay me enough to breastfeed. If someone doesn’t want to breastfeed – for whatever reason – then the pay per-feed rate is appalling low to be a genuinely worthwhile incentive.
Then is the most obvious factor and flaw to this scheme, that not all women are able to breastfeed. Also that not all women who may be physically able to breastfeed can successfully breastfeed for so many reasons other than simply choosing not to, and a food voucher doesn’t solve any of them.
However, I do hope that by trialing the scheme that it starts conversations about why it’s important for breastfeeding to be supported and encouraged.
What are your thoughts on this scheme? Would a financial incentive factor in to your feeding choices?