The idea is more than troublesome – it is completely wrongheaded. Dr Clare Relton, the doctor leading the scheme – thank goodness, it is only a pilot scheme so with any luck it will be shot down in flames – said she hoped it would make breastfeeding seem more normal.
She also – and this quote was in The Times report, I can’t find it in the other papers – said it was a way of recognising the “effort” of breastfeeding.
How offering a massive cash bribe makes anything normal beats me. And presenting breastfeeding as a massive effort is worse than unhelpful. People jump out of aeroplanes for charity for nothing. This move gives the impression that breastfeeding is so unbelievably dangerous, difficult and scary that nobody would want to do it without a gigantic bribe.
Most women, no, the vast majority of women, the VAST majority of women, are physically capable of feeding a baby exclusively up to six months. I didn’t know this when I had my babies and I got sucked into the early weaning business. I was a victim of marketing. I shudder to think how I could have ever thought it was right to give my sweet 5 month old baby boy disgusting wallpaper paste masquerading as “baby rice” and nasty dried powders which turned into baby food on the addition of water. The marketing of early foods undermines breastfeeding as powerfully as the marketing of formula.
Here are some things I would like the NHS to spend the money on instead. I am sure you can think of more.
- More antenatal education about how to breastfeed and why it matters AND, most importantly of all, more postnatal support for women struggling to get it right.
- Making ALL our maternity units meet the UN’s baby-friendly standards instead of just some of them.
- Training midwives so that they give up-to-date and evidence-based advice to new mothers, consistently.
- A campaign against the advertising of formula on TV.
- A campaign against Facebook’s prohibition of photos of breastfeeding where the nipple is visible – while allowing photos of executions.
- Better suppport for the charities which are trying to make BF “normal” – backing them with posters and adverts.