Why is the government trying to turn new mums into cash cows?

The announcement yesterday of a pilot scheme to entice new mothers in Sheffield and Chesterfield with the promise of £200 of shopping vouchers if they breastfeed their babies for 6 months is barely credible.

Giselle Green is head of press for the National Health Action Party

The announcement yesterday of a pilot scheme to entice new mothers in Sheffield and Chesterfield with the promise of £200 of shopping vouchers if they breastfeed their babies for 6 months is barely credible. Furthermore, trying to turn new mums into cash cows is hypocritical, wasteful, futile, divisive and unenforceable.

This government has already been accused by the Royal College Of Midwives of being “hands off regarding breastfeeding”, having scrapped National Breast Feeding Awareness week, cut back on antenatal and postnatal care, abandoned any national breastfeeding strategy and ditched infant feeding co-ordinators – who’d been helpful in areas with the lowest number of breastfeeders.

It’s unsurprising, then, that we have one of the worst breastfeeding rates in the world.

Yet suddenly, the government wants to bribe mothers into breastfeeding.

Even a new born baby would realise that the money would be better spent on a public education campaign about the benefits and pleasures of breastfeeding, normalising it as an acceptable activity in public, and encouraging new mothers who want to do it via well-funded support from midwives, district nurses and breastfeeding specialists.

New mothers who don’t breastfeed already know they could be saving a huge amount of money (and hassle) by breastfeeding rather than going down the road of formula, bottles and sterilisers. Yet they don’t. So why would the lure of less money than they would save by breastfeeding in the first place  convince them to breaastfeed – or make them more willing to persevere?

As  hard-core ‘breast is best’ believers amongst us, who refuse to give up breastfeeding despite cracked and bleeding nipples, could tell you – a breastfeeding bonus would make absolutely no difference. In the face of such pain, you have to really want to do it.

And what about those who choose not to breastfeed or who simply can’t for reasons of their own or their baby’s health? Why should they be discriminated against and look on enviously while those mums who are already saving money by breast feeding are rewarded with more money?

Many mothers already complain of being made to feel inferior if they are not breastfeeding. Rewarding those who do breastfeed will only serve to exacerbate this divide. The first few months of your baby’s life should not be one big guilt-trip. There’s plenty of time later in life for that.

Due to the fact that around half of new mums stop breastfeeding in the first 6-8 weeks, the government will make its scheme “front-loaded” (!), enabling mothers to claim £120 of the £200 after just six weeks. So why would they bother to continue breastfeeding having claimed the bulk of the money already? A scheme that effectively runs for just six weeks is barely worth the effort, or the cost.

But if new mums declare they have indeed been breastfeeding, how will that be verified? We all know about the Poppy Police. Will we now have the Booby Police or booby bobbies on the beat? Is this perhaps part of a greater plan to attract more police officers?

Actually, we’re informed, new mums will be asked to sign a declaration that they are breastfeeding, and midwives and health visitors will have to confirm they’ve discussed it.

Gosh, that sounds like a really watertight method of verification.

The only way to get more mothers breastfeeding is by changing attitudes and giving them information and support both before and after giving birth. This ridiculous government scheme looks set to be a big flop. The only thing anyone will be milking are metaphors.

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4 Responses to “Why is the government trying to turn new mums into cash cows?”

  1. Philip

    Straight out of the Chicago School of economics. Textbook. This is how the government wants everything to be run. Everything in the world reduced to cash incentives/penalties. Markets, markets, everywhere.

  2. karl meyer

    I should imagine the raw cost/benefit analysis is that breastfed babies tend (on average) to have fewer castro-intestinal problems that require medication and/or hospitalisation. These medical interventions have an explicit cost (thousands of pounds a day for in-patient baby care) so if you can reduce those then large amounts of money is saved from the NHS budget.

    Equally breastfeeding for the first 6 weeks has the greatest benefits with a long tail of benefits after that time so you can understand the reasoning behind front loading the money.

    In essence this “bribery” is not much different to the free “stop smoking” packs the NHS spends its money on.

  3. Dakiro

    still, if the cost / benefit analysis works, why not use it. Principles will only get you this far.

  4. swatnan

    Give them a voucher, and they’ll probably spend it on a tin of baby milk.
    Why not set aside areas in all public places and restaurants and stores specifically for breast feeding?

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