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Being ‘paid to breastfeed’ - your thoughts?

(590 Posts)
SarahMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 12-Nov-13 07:23:46

The BBC's reporting this morning that new mothers living in some areas of Derbyshire and south Yorkshire are to be given vouchers for shops including Matalan, Mothercare and John Lewis if they breastfeed their babies. These will be given out as part of a study by the University of Sheffield, aimed at discovering whether “financial incentives” will increase the uptake of breastfeeding in parts of the country where rates are low; mothers will receive vouchers worth up to £120 if they breastfeed until six weeks, and another £80-worth if they continue to the six-month mark.

The scheme, according the senior researcher on the project, is intended "as a way of acknowledging both the value of breastfeeding to babies, mothers and society, and the effort involved in breastfeeding. Offering financial incentives ... might increase the numbers of babies being breastfed, and complement on-going support for breastfeeding provided by the NHS, local authorities and charities."

We've been asked by the beeb what Mumsnetters make of the idea; what's your reaction?

Sammie101 Tue 12-Nov-13 07:27:21

I think it's ridiculous!

It penalises mothers who choose to or for some reason can't breastfeed. It's a very personal choice and there's already so much pressure on mums to breastfeed, you constantly get people harping "breast is best, breast is best" and are made to feel guilty if you DON'T breastfeed. It's absolutely ridiculous.

HDEE Tue 12-Nov-13 07:28:47

How are they going to prove which mums really are breast feeding and which ones bottle feed?

What about those who bottle feed breast milk?

CillaBANG Tue 12-Nov-13 07:32:29

I don't think a financial incentive is the best idea. I am still breastfeeding at 9 months but nearly gave up at 4 weeks because no one told me just how painful, relentless and hard can be in the beginning. Better pre-birth information (which is realistic as opposed to idealistic) and post-birth support would be much more useful, including better training for midwives to spot and correct problems like tongue tie.

Wossname Tue 12-Nov-13 07:33:29

Breast feeding can be very painful and difficult to establish. £200 isnt going to make much difference to someone continuing if the support isnt there for the tough early stages.

Also, I find it fairly offensive that someone thinks giving poor women £200 is adequate remuneration for doing something they dont really want to do. (Not phrased very well but not awake yet)

Pooka Tue 12-Nov-13 07:34:33

It doesn't penalise mums who formula feed. It incentives breast feeding among a sample of about 200 women in a deprived area where breast feeding rates are low and where mums may not even consider it as an option.

If you formula feed and are on some benefits, don't you get milk tokens? What's the difference between that and this?

They're apparently running it on a trust basis.

Dillytante Tue 12-Nov-13 07:38:19

It has been well demonstrated in the psychological literature that rewards such as this are completely counter productive. They actually decrease motivation to continue the behaviour, punish those who don't do it, and make something seem harder or less worthwhile than it should be, after all, if you need to be paid to do something it must be something you wouldn't really want to do for free right?

It's a ridiculous idea which completely ignores the root of the problem which is poor breastfeeding advice & support & lack of realistic information on how hard it can be. Better to spend that money on more breastfeeding counsellors and to support voluntarily run breastfeeding groups.

Pooka Tue 12-Nov-13 07:39:46

Personwlly, I think the idea is interesting and may have a positive impact. However, it should be in conjunction with better breast feeding support and help for all breast feeding mothers. I feel that if they are offering financial incentive without adequate breast feeding support, then the scheme pays lip service to wanting to increase rates of feeding rather than actually getting to the root cause of the poor rates in this country as a whole.

The idea of some women being entitled to something I wasn't and wouldn't be (breasted, but not in the areas chosen for the study and not on a low income) doesn't bother me. I'm not entitled to the money and wouldn't be. That doesn't mean offering it is wrong when the aim is a good one - to encourage mothers who maybe wouldn't have thought about breast feeding because of a formula feeding culture in their area/their own mothers formula fed/they don't feel it's for them.

Dillytante Tue 12-Nov-13 07:40:46

Also, what will happen to breastfeeding rates when the vouchers inevitably stop? Complete lack of motivation to do so because you've removed all intrinsic motivation. (Erm, can you tell I'm studying motivation for my degree at the moment?!)

Sammie101 Tue 12-Nov-13 07:42:54

Pooka if it's an incentive then it's a pretty crap one! As a previous poster has said, £200 isn't much considering how hard breastfeeding can be, especially in the early days when you're just getting started. To me it feels like they are trying to guilt people who want to formula feed.

I breastfeed my baby but would have given up after the first 2 days because of the pain. Every single midwife I saw said I just had to "persevere" because she was latched on correctly and doing everything right. It was only when I saw a fantastic lactation consultant who saw straight away that she wasn't sucking correctly. If I still had that pain I wouldn't care if the government were offering me £120 to keep breastfeeding, I would have stopped because I would have been miserable.

MummyBeerest Tue 12-Nov-13 07:43:26

Huh...that's. ..different.

I honestly think it's an interesting idea. On the one hand, I don't see how it's much different from formula companies mailing free samples or giving away swag for new parents. We got a diaper bag from Nestle for free, with a bunch of free samples of their formula/baby food that all went untouched. I like the bag though.

I think the guidelines for how long you breastfeed are a bit tricky though. For example, I'm still nursing my 15mo dd-surely, could I get a £1000 voucher?

Probably not. Because most people don't care.

If women are doing it for the free swag, it doesn't really promote bfing for its benefits.

Pooka Tue 12-Nov-13 07:44:40

Doth mean when the vouchers stop when the baby is a certain age? By which time I'd assume breast feeding would be well established and the baby would have been breastfed for some months? If pele w likely to give up at that point, when the moneystops, the baby has still had a good among of breast milk, and the mother may see carrying on as a good option.

If you mean when the voucher scheme stops as a whole, I'm not sure how that would impact on the sample they are looking at now.

Gileswithachainsaw Tue 12-Nov-13 07:45:48

And what about woman who continue to breast feed despite the fact it's not working out and the baby isn't thriving as it should just to continue getting the vouchers.

SweetCarolinePomPomPom Tue 12-Nov-13 07:46:38

it's a terrible idea.

SweetCarolinePomPomPom Tue 12-Nov-13 07:47:17

it won't work and it is almost impossible to police.

Pooka Tue 12-Nov-13 07:50:17

Sammie - it might make a difference though. That's the point of the study- to see whether a financial incentive would improve poor breast feeding rates. It might - not everyone who chooses from the get go not to breastfeed does so because of issues of pain/tongue tie/latch/exhaustion. Some choose not to from the beginning because it isn't the norm where they live or in their family or circle of friends.

£200 is not a tiny sum if you're living in a deprived area and on benefits.

I did say that in conjunction with any incentive there should be more extensive breast feeding support for all.

merrymouse Tue 12-Nov-13 07:51:08

I think I would want to see the results of the study before commenting.

Pooka Tue 12-Nov-13 07:52:27

Quite merrymouse.

I don't see how they study can be slated if we haven't even seen what impact it does or doesn't have.

pumpkinkitty Tue 12-Nov-13 07:53:54

What about mixed feeding? Or too ups on advice from HV?

My friend has a baby who is lactose intolerant, she has to have special prescription formula. Seems a bit mean on her, she desperately tried to breast feed but it made her DD sick.

ShawnSpencer Tue 12-Nov-13 07:54:44

Are you breastfeeding? Yes I am.

How does anyone prove that statement one way or the other?

KatAndKit Tue 12-Nov-13 07:55:39

Where are my vouchers? How much do i get for 14 months? Actually i did it for the benefit of my baby. Instead of giving out public money on vouchers, why not educate people about how much money they will save by not using formula? I don't agree with this scheme, they should spend the money on improving post natal care and brestfeeding support, both of which are often woefully inadequate.

FoxyRevenger Tue 12-Nov-13 07:57:17

After a horrific 4 day labour, I was still in bed with catheter and epidural not worn off, and was handed a breast pump, taken into pieces, in jugs of Milton and told to express - at 4am with a screaming baby, after 4 full nights of no sleep.

Thinking about that night still makes me cry. And if someone had turned up at my bedside with £200 it wouldn't have made the slightest fucking difference.

I wouldn't have magically known how to put the breast pump together, I wouldn't have even known how to express, never mind hand express, just because there was a financial incentive.

I honestly don't know how much more obvious it can be that what women really need is support, education, access to lactation consultants in the ward etc. Not a token gesture, FFS.

Sammie101 Tue 12-Nov-13 07:59:14

Fair enough Pooka, I can see your point. It seems to me that formula feeding is more common in younger mothers (MASSIVE generalisation!) who are often from a poorer background. I'm 23 and know a few people who are my age/younger who had babies around the same time I did and most of them formula feed, probably because it's the "done thing" among people their age.

In fact I went out with my work friends not too long ago and when they asked why I wasn't drinking and I said I was going home and had to feed the baby so didn't want a drink, one of my friends actually said "ewww Sammie, that's disgusting...breastfeeding". I was a bit like shock

Don't get me wrong, £200 is a lot of money, especially for people on benefits and/or a low income, such as myself, but it wouldn't be much of an incentive for me. Besides, £200 doesn't get you much in places like John Lewis, it would be better to offer vouchers in supermarkets if anything!

Dillytante Tue 12-Nov-13 08:02:01

Pooka I mean in the population as a whole. Even if these vouchers were rolled out nationally they would inevitably be cut. What message does that send about breastfeeding? It's no longer important? I've been really Alfie Kohn's book Punished By Rewards which demonstrates vast amounts of research on the destructive nature of rewards such as this.

LittleBearPad Tue 12-Nov-13 08:04:52

I've just heard this on Radio 4. It has made me so angry.

I tried to breastfeed, I failed. My daughter wouldn't latch on and just screamed. Three midwives and a lactation consultant failed to help. I gave her formula in the end as she was losing weight (and didn't have much to lose). Given how angry I was when I heard I still feel very guilty which was a bit of a surprise to me as I'd thought I'd made my peace.

Rather than £200 in John Lewis vouchers (!) it might be a much better allocation of resources to have much more breastfeeding support, especially in hospitals where absolutely no one helped me.

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