Offering cash incentives to new mothers could increase breastfeeding rates, a study by the University of Sheffield has found1.
The UK has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world, with women living in deprived areas the least likely to breastfeed. Researchers tested the feasibility of offering financial incentives to increase breastfeeding in areas where the breastfeeding rates at 6-8 weeks were less than 29 per cent.
As part of the study, women could claim a £40 voucher (redeemable at some supermarkets and high-street shops) at five different time points if they were still breastfeeding. Of the 58 women who signed up, 34 per cent were still breastfeeding at 6-8 weeks, an increase of five per cent. Satisfaction with the scheme, including the method used to verify breastfeeding, was high amongst health-care staff and participating mothers.
The study has received criticism over rewarding mothers who are able to breastfeed while penalising those who are not. The researchers are planning further studies to test the effectiveness of the scheme.
World Cancer Research Fund recommends that new mothers breastfeed exclusively for six months where possible. Among other benefits, breastfeeding can help reduce the mother’s risk of developing breast cancer later in life, and breastfed babies are less likely to become overweight children and adults.
Published in Spring 2015 issue