I watch the news every day and we all know that it is usually filled with doom, gloom, death and destruction, with the occasional news piece that is random and usually to do with record breaking pigeons.
This week, the biggest news circling is that the NHS is offering breastfeeding mothers £200 shopping vouchers to encourage them to breastfeed. The pilot scheme is being targeted in deprived areas of South Yorkshire and Derbyshire. Apparently they will be trialing this scheme on 130 women and if successful, will roll this out nationwide. We all know the use of financial incentives are not new in the NHS – they’ve tried bribing smokers and those who are overweight as well.
The areas chosen are targeted because of the low numbers of women breastfeeding in these areas. To qualify for the full £200 in vouchers, women must breastfeed for the full six months of the babies life. However this will be front loaded – with £120 up for grabs when the first 6-8 weeks is completed. The quote below comes from a BBC news article:
Dr Clare Relton, the Sheffield University expert leading the project, said she hoped the financial incentives would create a culture where breastfeeding was seen as the norm.
“It is a way of acknowledging both the value of breastfeeding to babies, mothers and society,” she added.
But Janet Fyle, of the Royal College of Midwives, questioned the initiative: “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 well-being of her child.”
She said the answer lay in making sure there were enough staff available to provide comprehensive support to new mothers after birth.
What. The. Fuck. I am all for women being encouraged to breastfeed, but this should be done via helpful midwives, health visitors and lactation consultants. There are many reasons why women do not breastfeed, the top three being:
1) There is not enough information – judgmental hospital staff and unhelpful staff who have no real information on how to help women without getting impatient.
2) Some women physically cannot breastfeed – milk can dry up or not let down at all
3) They do not want to.
The idea that the NHS are going to bribe women to breastfeed not only puts pressure on mothers to perform according to ‘reports and statistics’ but it can make mothers who want to feed but can’t feed, feel like utter shit. Yes, breastfeeding should be seen as normal and it is a bloody shame that people don’t see it as such and as taboo, but that is not a reason to effectively pay people to do it. My best friend was not able to breastfeed longer than she did because of low supply and she had a very hard time dealing with the guilt that came with that. She shouldn’t have had to feel that way but she didn’t get enough help and even if she had, her body wouldn’t do what she wanted it to do.
Why should she be made to feel a failure for that?
The money that is being ridiculously wasted on shopping vouchers (which, let’s face it, won’t go on breastfeeding equipment but on other things) could be better spent on hospital lactation consultants or special nurses/midwives who can direct and assist with women after birth who need help breastfeeding and with latching. Or they could use this money and give it to cafes/restaurants and department stores for comfortable breastfeeding areas for mothers who are shy in public, without relegating them to the toilets.The biggest issue is lack of knowledge and the NHS could have spent that money on providing that knowledge.
Breastfeeding should be done because of the will and desire of the mother to do so and not mandated or bribed. They haven’t considered the pressure they are about to put new mums under at a time where they do not need additional pressure.
But no. The answer for them is to throw money at those who want to feed as a reward for doing so. It’s disgusting and it degrades women. The ones who breastfeed, making out like they would do it for money and the ones who don’t, making out like they can be forced via money. For the ones who can’t, well you just make them feel like utter crap! I could understand this incentive in third world countries where formula is being bought when they do not have the money or resources to buy it. They do not have the right education or access to education on this subject as we do so encouraging FREE breastfeeding is appropriate.
Not only this, but what about women like me? Those of us who simply do not wish to breastfeed? We get made to feel like we made the ”wrong” choice. If it wasn’t for the evil powder sold in supermarkets, my best friends daughter would have starved after birth. She could have died. I didn’t make a wrong choice for my daughter, I made the right choice for me and that’s how it should be, not bribing mothers to do what they believe should be done.
Have they also forgotten that not every baby is the same? My own mum tried breastfeeding us, and we didn’t take to it. Nothing she did wrong, but not every baby will breastfeed. What about those mothers? Don’t forget, this is taxpayer funded. Why should any of us have to pay for something that is a choice, not a mandate??
I think a mother should get support with either option of feeding, it’s hard enough being a first time mother without prejudice from either side. There should be more support for those that do want to feed but it’s equally important to support those that can’t. Surely the important thing is a happy, healthy, thriving baby and a happy settled mother?