Breastfeeding on demand...the demand of £200

Where to start.

Twitter is all of a twitter about a trial taking place in the UK to try and increase breastfeeding rates among 'deprived' families (its always 'deprived' families isn't it? I'm never quite sure what that means, poor? badly educated? both?) You would think that this would be a good thing. But I fear that the way the trial team are going about it and the reaction from almost everyone means it is not a good idea at all.

Me with DD
The plan is to give mothers £200 of vouchers for a supermarket if they continue to breastfeed for 6 months. Leaving aside the issues around mothers or babies that cannot breastfeed, how would this even be policed? Would a health visitor take your word for it? Search the house (maybe using trained sniffer dogs) to hunt out tins of SMA? Test the baby like an athlete in training for 'banned substances'? "I'm sorry Mrs Brown your baby has tested positive for Aptamil" Watch you feed? A very weird situation whatever.

And what of the actual idea, that £200 would make you change the way you fed your baby. Most mothers I know made a choice based on knowledge and support at the time. £200 would not have made me NOT breastfeed, and when I asked twitter mothers that didn't breastfeed agreed that it wouldn't have made them do it. What many many mothers said was that more support would have helped them keep feeding. Places to feed in public, health visitors and midwives that didn't just suggest a bottle when feeding was difficult, someone to sit with them while they fed, someone to help with housework or look after the other children so they could feed in peace. A LAW preventing comments when they did decide to feed in public (well done Scotland)

Radio 4 interviewed a few women in London and none of them thought it was a good idea, all thought it wouldn't change what they did, and many thought extra help and support would be a better use of the money.

And of course many people think it is unfair. The NHS has already used cash incentives to get people to stop smoking and to lose weight. It seems that taking an unhealthy option gets you cash! (not that not breastfeeding is unhealthy obviously) What next? You get to the drive thru at Mc Donald's and a voice says "What meal would you like sir? or would you prefer to just have the £10 from the government for eschewing junk food?" What of all the parents that are struggling to do their best and are not given £200.

And the silliest thing is that breastfeeding is its own financial reward!! You don't need to eat much more to make milk (in fact eating well but normally will get you back into shape quicker) Formula is expensive as are bottles and sterilising equipment. Breastfeeding is almost free!

As to the whole issue of women's bodies...I'm a very pro breastfeeding sort of woman but it is your body! To be bribed with £200 to do something you didn't want to? Imagine being told "women now to be paid £50 for having sex with their husband when he's keen but they are not in the mood"? (actually I bet some of you are already choosing new shoes based on that idea...but anyway)

It's all wrong.

The UK has the lowest breastfeeding rates in the WORLD according to the Dr on Radio 4 this morning. We need a change in attitudes and support, not cash.

Programs on TV like 'Health Freaks' where Dr Pixie squeals "ooh breast milk has a bit of a yuk factor doesn't it" while cringing at the idea of a man drinking breast milk don't help! It's MILK, you drink milk for COWS, that you have never met and had coffee with so why get all fussed at a woman you know providing milk?

We need to get a grip. Women make milk, it's our super power. We should support all women, including
those that choose not to use that super power. Women need help, support and kindness not cash to help us be better mothers. We are all being the best mothers we can be, don't alienate groups of us. Breastmilk or formula, a happy baby and a happy mum is what we should aim for.

I'm glad this is only a trial. We shall see what effect it has but I hope all factors are taken into account and that maybe a trial of extra help and support is run alongside it.

What do you think? Would £200 have changed your mind? Do 'poor' mothers really need that £200 or would explaining the natural savings be enough? How bribe-able are you?

If you are struggling with breastfeeding you may find this link helpful.

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