Mums Should Be Paid To Breastfeed, Study Says

Offering financial incentives for new mothers to breastfeed their babies can make them substantially more likely to do so, a study found.

Over 10,000 new mothers hailing from South Yorkshire, Derbyshire and North Nottinghamshire took part in the pilot, according to the University of Sheffield.

The research, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, saw shopping vouchers worth as much as £120 handed to mums if their babies got breast milk (via breastfeeding or expressed milk) at two days, 10 days and six weeks old.

There was an additional incentive, worth £80, to keep giving the children breast milk up to six months.

Carla Mastroianni Breastfeeding Protest
Demonstrator Carla Mastroianni feeds her baby Sienna during a protest in support of breastfeeding in public, outside Claridge's hotel in London December 6, 2014. Neil Hall/Reuters

The prevalence of breastfeeding at six to eight weeks was "significantly greater" among those offered the vouchers than those who were not; 37.9 percent compared to 31.7 percent.

Fiona Sutcliffe, a 29-year-old mother from Sheffield participated in the scheme with her daughter, and said: "Breastfeeding is quite difficult in the beginning.

"The scheme is a really good way of keeping going—keeping motivated to stay on track rather than giving up and going for the bottle. It provides little milestones, little stepping stones and helps you get breastfeeding established."

Principal investigator Dr Clare Relton, from the University of Sheffield's School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR), said: "As the scheme was tested in areas with low breastfeeding rates (just 28 per cent of babies were receiving any breast milk at six-eight weeks), we were delighted that 46 percent of all eligible mothers signed up to the scheme and over 40 percent claimed at least one voucher.

"The trial found a significant increase in breastfeeding rates in areas where the scheme was offered."

The researchers say that breastfeeding "helps to prevent short and long-term illnesses in children and in mothers and also reduces health costs to the National Health Service.

"It is estimated that the NHS would save a minimum of £17 million every year in hospital admissions and GP visits if more women could be supported in order to breastfeed for longer," the University of Sheffield statement said.