A study conducted in Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire in the UK has found that offering new mothers financial incentives in the form of shopping vouchers boosts breastfeeding rates.
For the study, more than 10,000 mothers were offered up to £200 in shopping vouchers as an incentive to breastfeed. The vouchers could be used to buy food, household items, toys, clothes, books or DVDs in supermarkets and other shops.
Breastfeeding levels are among the lowest in the world, with just 12% of new mothers in some areas feeding their six to eight week-old babies this way.
However, with the voucher incentive scheme, breastfeeding rates in the areas involved rose by 6%.
The women were given vouchers worth £120 if they signed declaration forms stating their babies had been breastfeed for the first six weeks of their lives. The mothers received a further £80 of vouchers if they were still breastfeeding after six months.
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 trial found a significant increase in breastfeeding rates in areas where the scheme was offered.
“It seems that the voucher scheme helped mothers to breastfeed for longer. Mothers reported they felt rewarded for breastfeeding.”
NHS guidelines say that babies should be exclusively breastfeed for at least the first six months of their lives.
Babies that are breastfed have fewer health problems in their younger years and are less likely to develop conditions such as diabetes when they are older.
The five-year trial was funded by research councils, medical charities and Public Health England.