Breastfeeding Vouchers

What does it say about us as a society when mothers in disadvantaged areas are offered breastfeeding vouchers, a payment, as an incentive to improve breastfeeding rates?

There is no substitute for qualified, informed advice and support in my opinion.  What does it say about us as a society when there is an organisation who are inclined to offer remuneration for breastfeeding mothers?

The mothers in question will be offered a payment equivalent to STG£200, broken down to STG£120 if they are still breastfeeding at 6 weeks and a further STG£80 at 6 months.

What motivates women to breastfeed?

I can tell you that all the gold in the land would have been useless to me if I hadn’t had a partner and family who supported me, who helped when I was tired, who understood that I wanted the very best for my baby. A voucher wouldn’t compare to the value of this support.

When I was struggling with breastfeeding my first child, a voucher wouldn’t have been an incentive to continue. A qualified lactation consultant available to call to the house might have been.

When I was exhausted after labour on both births, vouchers wouldn’t have been much incentive to keep on breastfeeding. A helping hand and someone to watch over the baby while I slept would have been.

We have low breastfeeding rates in this country. A huge part of this is the cultural attitude towards breastfeeding, a lack of real tangible support for new mothers directly after delivery and in the few precious weeks while breastfeeding is established.

Invest in supports, not in vouchers.

Every feed counts.

You may be interested in my personal experiences while feeding my children and those of the other Irish Parenting Bloggers. Click here to find out more.

27 comments

  • very true, information and support is what is needed. I wonder even how they will implement the check that the mum is still breastfeeding before giving the handout!

  • I wholeheartedly agree. Have just been chatting online about this. I think it’s a terrible, terrible idea. Bribing people to breastfeed seems all wrong. I think it belittles breastfeeding. It will descend into stories of people pretending to breastfeed in order to get vouchers. It will be about tricking HCPs into signing off on it. It treats mothers like children who are being promised sweets if they clear their plates. It’s dreadful.

  • It’s a crazy idea. I know that no voucher in the world would have made me continue when I was emotionally all over the place after the birth of my twins. I really wanted to do it, but the lack of support contributed greatly to my giving up after 2 weeks. I agree that the money should be put into support systems.

  • I was told by midwives that my baby would never be able to latch and it would be better to give up breastfeeding altogether. Without the help of qualified lactation consultants and support groups I would never have succeeded. You have to really want to breastfeed in order to succeed at it – no other incentive is needed, in my opinion. Money should fund more support for mothers and midwives!

  • Sinead - Bumbles of Rice

    Fully agree Caitriona, I think it’s really oversimplifying to suggest that a bribe like that would make women who didn’t want to try feeding to try it, or to have mums continue when they are in extreme difficulty. Support, real support is what’s needed. Great post.

  • Totally agree-it’s support that’s needed not some half thought up dangling carrot idea!

  • Absolutely Caitriona – the absence of support for new mothers who are anxious, tired, busy and just have more than they can cope with is the reason breastfeeding rates are so low here. Not to mention all the busybodies who tut tut when a woman needs to feed her baby in a place where she doesn’t have as much peace and quiet as she might like.
    Mind you it can be bad elsewhere too – my niece got shouted at by a staff nurse in a UK hospital last week because she didn’t pick her brand new baby up fast enough to feed him when he cried in the night. Poor girl had had an emergency C section only six hours earlier which entailed a major blood transfusion but stupid woman shouted at her instead of picking the baby up for her and giving her some support. Amazingly she’s still feeding him and beginning to get her confidence back but it’s going to be touch and go for a while even with two sets of grandparents there to help when her husband goes back to work

  • Pingback: Breastfeeding Vouchers – Wholesome Ireland – Parenting Blog – Your Guide To Breastfeeding

  • Exactly my sentiments. Thanks Janine!

  • Thanks A. Himself actually said to me last night that it had to be have been thought up at an official level and didn’t come from a holistic perspective.

  • As per Yes Minister: “Something must be done, this is something, therefore we must do it!” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vidzkYnaf6Y)

    Building support networks is hard and expensive and doesn’t get headlines. Giving out token payments is easy and generates column inches. Which to choose?

    Also, given the attitude of the British establishment (in particular) to poor people – they seem to see them as barely sentient, barely human – they probably think that bribery and violence are all they understand.

  • So true, it beggars belief that anyone would think chucking shopping vouchers at new mums will make more of a difference than simply funding a good support network that encourages and helps new mums IF they want to breastfeed.

  • Girl with the skew earring

    What/Who stops those that are offered the vouchers from lying to get the vouchers? I wholeheartedly agree that better support is needed.

    Having had one child in South Africa and one child here in Ireland, I was astounded at how much the quality of pre- and post- natal care/counseling/support is lacking here in Ireland.

    The system is flawed and the people trying to make it work on ground level (nurses in particular) are overworked and there are far too few of them. Add to the fact that most of the best have left the country and of course we will be left with some who are indifferent and couldn’t be bothered with actually helping as the job and the strains have hardened them.
    I had one, ONE nurse on the Maternity ward (in Ireland) where I had my 2nd child who took the time to properly check on me and my feeding position with my son. She corrected my position and reminded me of a few other positions. The other nurses were too pre-occupied/busy to stop and make sure that everything was actually ok, not just ask the question and take the answer at face value.

  • Really good blog post and I do agree in what you are saying. I think the whole concept sound unethical… have a look on my blog as well, talking about the same issue. http://bit.ly/1e3IqBz :)

  • This is … weird. I suppose they feel that it has worked before (assuming it must have) since they say the NHS bribed people to give up smoking or lose weight. And perhaps in the areas they’re targeting, money really is an incentive. Perhaps this demographic need to be enticed to even *consider* breastfeeding – but it MUST be coupled with better information, better training for health visitors and nurses, more support all round. If you want to stop smoking or eat better, it’s mostly up to you; but if you want to breastfeed you NEED the support system behind you because without it a certain proportion of people just won’t be able to, no matter how much they want to. It seems like a plan that was cooked up by people who think all it takes is the intention, whereas that’s just the first step.

    I agree with the commenter who said they think poorer people are only motivated by money. How insulting. And with Office Mum when she said it belittles breastfeeding. I think they’re looking for a quick fix, to instantly transform attitudes to breastfeeding so that more people will attempt it. But without the support system it’s doomed to failure.

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