Report from UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative about the financial incentives for breastfeeding research –
New research finds that financial incentives may increase breastfeeding rates
Offering new mothers financial incentives may significantly increase low breastfeeding rates, new research from the University of Sheffield and the University of Dundee has found. More than 10,000 new mothers across South Yorkshire, Derbyshire and North Nottinghamshire were involved in the ground-breaking study, which offered vouchers worth up to £120 over six weeks if their babies received breastmilk (breastfeeding or expressed milk) at two days, ten days and six weeks old. A further £80 of vouchers were available if their babies continued to receive breastmilk up to six months.
The trial (funded by the National Prevention Research Initiative and Public Health England) saw an increase of six percentage points in breastfeeding rates at 6-8 weeks in the areas where the scheme was offered, compared with those areas where the scheme was not available. Principal investigator Dr Clare Relton, from the University of Sheffield’s School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR), said: “Our scheme offered vouchers to mothers as a way of acknowledging the value of breastfeeding to babies and mothers and the work involved in breastfeeding”.
The study demonstrates the importance of increasing the perceived value of breastfeeding in order to improve rates. Financial incentives appear to act as a mechanism for valuing breastfeeding and demonstrating to mothers that their efforts are appreciated and that breastfeeding makes a difference to the health of their children and themselves.
These findings should be considered in the context of the evidence for the need to provide consistent, ongoing and predictable support to enable mothers to breastfeed for as long as they wish.
Link to the slides from the UNICEF UK Baby Friendly conference – presentation by Clare Renton and Mary Renfrew, two of the researchers.