Tuesday, November 12, 2013

"Breastfeeding mothers offered £200 in shop vouchers"

That's the headline on the BBC website. This article here. A friend of mine mentioned it in passing this morning on the way back from the school run. She'd asked if I thought I would qualify for it should we get our planned for baby. And my initial thought was "nice, I like getting a little extra when I'm home with a new baby". After all, I was more than happy to collect and use my nice voucher for cloth nappies I got when Jack was born (love my cloth nappies, used them on all 3 kids for the first 6m, still got them!)

"Breastfeeding mothers offered £200 in shop vouchers"But since that chat this morning I have seen people pop up on Facebook with a whole other view. Apparently it's not the same idea as the cloth nappy scheme.

It's being rolled out to deprived areas, not nationally. I could well be a million miles out of line here, but if money was the issue surely more people would breast feed. That's free. Formula costs! A lot! Tubs of powder, bottles, teats, sterilizing fluid and equipment, all that time spent making up and heating up bottles..... I've never, ever come across anyone who chose not to breastfeed based on financial reasons. Even if the mum HAD to go back to work, expressing is an option (I've done it for each of mine).

Midwives and health visitors will need to verify that the mum is still breastfeeding up to the 6m cut off. As if they don't have enough to do! I love my local midwife team and my health visitor. They are a lovely group of people and I - literally - trust them with my life and the lives of those most precious to me: my kids. But they are constantly rushed off their feet and running late as it is. How are they going to to prove a child is breastfed if they arrive when baby isn't wanting a feed? As they saying goes, you can take a horse to water but you can't make it drink. In my experience if a baby isn't hungry no amount of waving a boob in their face is going to change that! If baby doesn't feed when the MW/HV is there for one or two visits, will the mum loose the vouchers? And what if someone sees a breastfeeding mum give her baby a bottle of expressed milk (maybe she's shy to feed in public) and then goes and tells tales on her? What if someone is formula feeding but uses the above reasons and says that they are breastfeeding just to get the vouchers? What about people who are mix feeding? Does it have to be exclusive BF to qualify?

And then there are the mothers who wanted to breastfeed but couldn't, maybe they suffered trauma or excessive blood loss during labour and their milk failed? What if they have had surgery on their breasts and that means they are unable to feed? What if any number of other reasons.... Wont these women be affected emotionally - while they are already open to PND - wont they feel punished for not being able to feed their babies themselves? What if they are suffering so badly with PND that they can't bring themselves to breastfeed rather than it be a thought out choice?

There will be people it will help - like I said at the start I certainly wouldn't turn my nose up at £200 of vouchers to spend on food for me and the family, but I am experienced with breastfeeding and (presuming I don't fall foul of some medical condition preventing it) I will breastfeed my 4th baby for as long as needs be when the time comes. Regardless of vouchers.

But that's just it, isn't it? Regardless of the vouchers. If you've going to breastfeed, you will. If you're not, you wont. Would £200 really make you carry on breastfeeding if you couldn't stand it? Maybe as a keen breastfeeding mum I wouldn't qualify because I don't need an intensive?

breastfeeding welcome here
Would the money be better spent on other ways to encourage and support breastfeeding? Give the mum a few freebies, like nipple shields, washable breast pads, discount/vouchers for nursing bras & breast pumps. How about more funding for BF support groups (not pressure groups!) and some poster and TV campaigns - wouldn't have to be "breast is best", maybe something softer and more welcoming. Intensives to shops, cafes etc that display a "breastfeeding welcome here" logo (easy enough to get) - and prove that they are welcoming (mystery shopper style) - surely these would be better methods of normalising what nature provides?

It's all a great shame really. Someone came up with a great idea to give breastfeeding mums a helping hand, and then it all got political and screwed up.

All mums need help. Rich or poor, breast or formula.

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