Sounds like the makings of a hit reality TV show, doesn’t it? Maybe not, but then again, I have always been surprised by the popularity of ‘One Born Every Minute’.
Much of the undue pressure and guilt put on women about the way they feed their babies springs from one assumption: that is, that if a woman does not breastfeed, it is because she has chosen not to. I have wanted to write a post about this particular research project for a while because it is a perfect example of this misunderstanding. This link outlines the study, but for those who can’t access the link easily, essentially the researchers are trialling the success of financial incentives in improving breastfeeding rates at the 6-8 week and 6 month stages. In short, you can earn up to £200 in shopping vouchers if breastfeed your baby past the age of 6 months.
I have two main issues with the concept of paying women to breastfeed.
1) Every woman should be allowed to make an informed decision about how they feed their baby. All other things being equal, the health benefits of breastfeeding would point all mothers towards breastfeeding. However, the fact is that everything isn’t equal: there are many variables that affect breastfeeding and therefore any feeding decision (labour, post-natal health, latch-on technique, working commitments, to name but a few). The #isupportyou campaign reflects a need for a fairer society that accepts choice without judgement.
2) The success of such a proposal depends of the reason why women are not breastfeeding. If an individual was financially motivated then surely they would be breastfeeding anyway – as we are continually told, it is free! A brief internet search on the disadvantages of breastfeeding brings up problems such as “latch on”, “mastitis” and “sore nipples”. These are all things that can – according to the experts – be tackled with better support and education, not £200 of ASDA vouchers.
I don’t know whether my method of expressing all of my milk to feed my baby would warrant the £200. It should – after all, my baby gets all the benefits of breastmilk. Come to think of it, that would just about cover the cost of my breast pump. Now there’s an idea of how to spend the money to help more women breastfeed…