According to the study, breastfeeding amongst women who were eligible for the research increased when they were offered shopping vouchers as an incentive.
46% of eligible women signed up to the financial incentive scheme, with 40% claiming at least one voucher for breastfeeding.
More than 10,000 new mothers across Derbyshire, South Yorkshire and North Nottinghamshire took part in the study which offered up to £120 in shopping vouchers if their babies received breast milk (breastfeeding or express milk) at two days, 10 days and six weeks old.
A further £80 in shopping vouchers were given to women who continued to breastfeed up to six months.
The study “found a significant increase in breastfeeding rates” in the specified areas where the scheme was tested.
University of Sheffield’s School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR) Principal Investigator, Dr Clare Relton, said: “The trial found a significant increase in breastfeeding rates in areas where the scheme was offered. Eight out of 10 mothers in the UK who start to breastfeed stop before they really want to. It seems that the voucher scheme helped mothers to breastfeed for longer. Mothers reported they felt rewarded for breastfeeding.”
Breastfeeding rates in the UK are some of the lowest in the world, with some areas of the country seeing just 12% of six to eight week-old babies being breastfed.
In response to the research Chief Executive at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), Gill Walton, said: “The RCM is interested in the initial trial findings of this study. However, low breastfeeding rates in 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 choose to.
“The RCM believes the motive for breastfeeding cannot be rooted by offering a 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.”
The full ‘Effect of financial incentives on breastfeeding’ research paper can be found here.
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