breastfeedingThe life-long value of breastfeeding to both mother and child is continuously confirmed with medical studies conducted around the world. Even so, many mothers are reluctant to take on the challenge, many downright refuse, and others give it a try but quickly switch to bottle-feeding.

Dr. Mary Renfrew is an advocate of the “breast is best” way of thinking. Renfrew is a professor of mother and infant health at Scotland’s Dundee University and she was lead author in a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) study in 2012 that explored the health benefits of breastfeeding.

The UNICEF study finds breastfeeding protects a mother from breast cancer. Health benefits to the child include protection from ailments of the gastrointestinal tract, respiratory problems, infections of the ears, and necrotising enterocolitis, which can be lethal.

Even with such tempting benefits, only about 35% of the mothers in the United Kingdom are still breastfeeding at six months. Renfrew thinks that if more women in the UK would do so for at least six months, the health benefits gained through doing so could save the National Health Service (NHS) as much as £40 million (US $64.6 million) per year.

Many women in today’s UK have never been breastfed themselves and many have never seen it done so don’t know how. Sexualization of breasts and cultural taboos prevent other women from learning how to effectively breastfeed their babies.

To encourage breastfeeding, Renfrew is working with a team of researchers from Sheffield University in England to train, promote, and support 130 women in a pilot project that offers the women financial incentives to breastfeed as long as six months. If the program proves successful, it could be offered on a nationwide basis.

The 130 mothers in the pilot project can earn as much as £200 ($320) in shopping vouchers meted out at various milestones throughout the project. The mothers will be rewarded on this schedule:

  • £40 ($64.60) to breastfeed two days after delivery
  • £40 ($64.60) when baby is 10 days old
  • £40 ($64.60) when baby is six weeks old
  • £40 ($64.60) when baby is three months old
  • £40 ($64.60) when baby is six months old

Mothers are required to sign a declaration of compliance before receiving payment. Midwives, health visitors, or breastfeeding counsellors must also sign the mother’s declaration to make it valid.

As expected, the project has its outside supporters as well as its critics.

Source:  Boseley, Sarah. “Researchers to offer shopping vouchers to mothers who breastfeed.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited. Nov. 11, 2013. Web. Nov. 21, 2013.