Financial incentives may increase breastfeeding rates

By Julie Griffiths on 12 December 2017 Breastfeeding

A study published by the University of Sheffield and the University of Dundee into financial incentives for breastfeeding has shown that offering new mothers financial incentives may increase low breastfeeding rates.

More than 10,000 new mothers across South Yorkshire, Derbyshire and North Nottinghamshire were involved in the study, which offered shopping vouchers worth up to £120 if their babies received breastmilk (breastfeeding or expressed milk) at two days, 10 days and six weeks old.

A further £80 of vouchers was available if their babies continued to receive breastmilk up to six months.

Findings revealed that 46% of all eligible mothers signed up to the scheme and more than 40% claimed at least one voucher for breastfeeding, with the women reporting that the vouchers were an incentive to continue breastfeeding.

RCM CEO Gill Walton said that while the RCM is interested in the initial trial findings of this study, low breastfeeding rates in parts of the UK unfortunately indicate a much bigger social and cultural problem that needs to be tackled.

‘There are some areas where many generations of women haven't been given the example of breastfeeding or offered the right support to enable them to initiate and sustain breastfeeding if they can and chose to do so,’ said Gill.

She added: ‘The RCM believes the motive for breastfeeding cannot be rooted by offering financial reward. It has to be something that a mother wants to do in the interest of the health and wellbeing of her baby and its growth into a child.’

On similar incentivised schemes such as smoking cessation, the RCM has said before that incentivising public health behaviour change through monetary reward is not ideal.

Gill said: ‘If midwives and healthcare professionals have enough time to spend with women to not only offer them the information about the benefits that breastfeeding has for both mother and baby, but also to support them in starting this would help. Healthy Start vouchers are also very worthwhile and provide much needed nutritional support to mothers on low income. Sadly they are not being claimed by many of those entitled to receive them.’

The trial findings are published in JAMA Pedriatrics. Read the full paper here.