New mothers are to be offered up to £200 in shopping vouchers if they breastfeed their babies.
Researchers at the Universities of Sheffield, Dundee and Brunel are hoping that the monetary incentive will tackle the “stubbornly low” rates of breastfeeding in the UK.
More than 4,000 women will be offered by scheme, with £120 in vouchers being given to mums who breastfeed for six weeks, with a further £80 for those still breastfeeding at six months.
The scheme has previously been trialled among just over 100 women living in Derbyshire and south Yorkshire. During the piolet scheme, breastfeeding rates in the areas at six to eight weeks rose from 21-29% to 34.3% among the test group.
Both mothers and healthcare staff who participated in the study reported high levels of satisfaction with the scheme.
Principal investigator Dr Clare Relton from the University of Sheffield’s School of Health and Related Research said: “For several decades now the majority of babies in the UK have not been getting enough breast milk, and despite many efforts, this situation has not improved. Now we need to conduct the full trial to find out if offering vouchers for breastfeeding can significantly increase our stubbornly low breastfeeding rates and be a cost effective use of UK public funds.
“Last year, there was a lot of controversy about the scheme and we didn’t know if it would be acceptable, so we have been delighted to see how enthusiastic local mothers and healthcare professionals have been.”
Not everyone supports the scheme, however, with some claiming that vouchers for breastfeeding is an extension of the nanny state.
Matthew Sinclair, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘This is yet another example of public health officials believing that the nanny state knows best for every single family.’
What do you think of the new scheme? Is it a great incentive or just another thing for bottle-feeding mums to feel bad about? Please share your thoughts in the box below.