What a load of bollocks.
Breastfeeding rates in England are quite simply abysmal. Yet there are three types of Mothers; those who breastfeed, those who don't and those who can't. Although a very small percentage, there do exist some woman who unfortunately can't breastfeed, however the percentage is incredibly lower then we are lead to believe as there are very few breastfeeding problems that can't be eventually remedied. Generally it's the appalling lack of support and bad advice, yes even from so called medical professionals, that result with a woman being told she's unable to breastfeed. For example, an anxious mum may feel she doesn't have enough milk yet rather then help her increase her supply or even reassure her that her supply is fine more often than not the 'formula top-ups' are suggested which actually negatively impact on her supply. A baby feeding all the time? A baby crying? Not getting much milk when you pump? None of them are indicative that your supply is low.
The main thing that makes for successful breastfeeding is the want to do it. Seriously. You have to want to do it. Feeling you should do it or feeling pressured into doing it won't encourage you to succeed. Why? because it bloody sucks at first, if you excuse the pun. It's hard, it's painful and it's frustrating in the first six weeks. The only thing that would make any sane person persist is the desire to. Why endure it if you don't have to and actually don't really want to?
Would £200 make you breastfeed?
More importantly should £200 make you breastfeed?
If a woman chooses to breastfeed there are a multitude of incredible benefits to both baby and mother oh and it's free. Surely there is a level of morality involved where as to say if a woman wants to breastfeed and is able to it should be for her baby, not for dosh? However you feed your baby it is your parental obligation and moral responsibility to do so as it is part and parcel of being a parent so should we pay parents to change nappies? To hold their baby? To bath their baby? I think not, so why on earth pay a woman to feed her baby? It lends a rather seedy and sinister edge to something that should be natural and instinctive.
What about the woman who may have had a double mastectomy due to cancer and can't breastfeed? What about the woman with severe Post Natal Depression and Post Partum Psychosis? What about the woman who adopted her new born*? All perfectly valid reasons as to why they can't as opposed to don't breastfeed. Do they have to just have a carriage clock and pen instead for not being eligible for the dosh as well as a huge dose of guilt?
There's encouragement and motivation and then there's downright bribery. This is in effect, the latter, bribery. They're trying to bribe woman into breastfeeding their child suggesting that woman should/would do anything for money. As if they don't have enough to deal with when they have a newborn.
If there's money to spare it should be spent on combating the reasons why woman don't breastfeed or why so many give up within the first six weeks. Motivate woman through knowledge and encourage them through support.
So why don't some woman breastfeed?
It's become an almost alien concept, generations of woman are being brought up with no exposure to breastfeeding and the normality of it. The fact it's the default option before a choice is made has become lost. As such an ugly stigma has been attached as the female form has become objectified and over sexualised so that people become embarrassed or downright disgusted at the notion of breastfeeding, of breasts being used in a biologically appropriate way. Woman are being shamed for doing something that should be as natural as breathing. Woman are made to feel ashamed at feeding their baby the most nutritiously appropriate food whenever and wherever it is needed.
You've probably heard the ludicrous arguments people have sometimes used such as 'shitting is natural but you don't see me doing it at a restaurant table' or 'sex is instinctive but I'm not allowed to do that on the bus' which is are grossly incomparable. There are no similarities between either example and breastfeeding be it socially, medically or culturally. The former for example is the body excreting waste produce that is offensive in smell and too toxic to ingest whereas breastmilk is the opposite it is replenishing, nourishing and strengthening. In a hospital setting breastmilk is treated as a food unlike human waste and bodily fluids which are treated as potentially dangerous waste with specific disposal regimes. I could rant further on the topic of this argument yet Jessica has done it far more in depth and eloquently than I ever could, here. The fact remains though that it is a common argument and testament to the shocking amount of stigma out there.
Many woman are aware that breastmilk is 'good for baby' yet it's surprising how many woman are unaware of exactly how or why it is the optimal food for babies let alone in how many ways it can benefit them.
Mums are often told 'It will help you lose the baby weight!' for motivation yet are not informed about the several types of cancer it can reduce the risk of amongst many other benefits to the mum.
Whilst being inundated with basic 'how' to breastfeed information, very little is done to fully expose the hard reality of breastfeeding in the first few weeks so that mums can prepare.
There's always been a cultural rush to wean babies with the notion that it's milk or food, when in fact the truth is food should be for fun until they're one with their main source of nutrition coming from milk. Thus, many mums feel once solids are introduced, breastmilk is unecessary. This isn't helped with crap anecdotal advice that they should cut down on feeds and if you do that your baby will magically fullfill the societal holy grail if being a 'good baby' and sleep through the night and eat loads.
The normality of breastfeeding has become so lost in society that people no longer know what to think of it, children are shielded from it as if it's obscene rather then being simply told that is a baby being fed by it's mother.
We live in society where woman are judged for not breastfeeding yet unsupported if they do breastfeed.
So, will giving mums £200 to breastfeed help normalise breastfeeding? Surely if it's normal it shouldn't need rewarding? Will splashing the cash educate society on breastfeeding? Will this blatant bribery support mums in breastfeeding? Will this dangling carrot demolish the stigma?
Or is it just another crass attempt to ignore the root of the problem and to push woman into compliance?
If a woman is going to breastfeed, she will. If she's going to bottle feed, she will.
If the choice was based purely on money, everyone would breastfeed because formula feeding is expensive (formula, sterilisers, teats, bottles etc etc) which merely highlights the glaringly obvious fact that it's not about money.
The WHO recommend breastfeeding until at least two years of age yet this scheme only aims to reward those that breastfeed for six months once again adding further stigma to extended and natural term breastfeeding inadvertently deeming it unnecessary and undermining its importance and its multitude of benefits.
Regardless, let's bribe woman to be their own babies wet-nurse whilst doing sod all about why so many woman don't breastfeed in the first place. Lets add financial pressure ,in a time when the economic climate is screwed and everyone is suffering, to new mums because that will help. Many may feel obligated to endure something they don't want to do purely for the money which could negatively impact on their nursing relationship building up potential feelings of resentment, guilt, obligation and entrapment because they're essentially being coerced into doing something they probably wouldn't have done otherwise whilst doing fuck all to challenge and break the hurdles that are responsible for breastfeeding rates being so low to start with.
Fix the cause. Help woman want to breastfeed. Help woman succeed in breastfeeding. Fund more midwives and lactational consultants. Train other medical professionals properly so they don't spout anecdotal crap at mothers in need. Normalise it again, like it should be. Tackle the cultural and societal perception. Money isn't going to eradicate the pain, money isn't going to help a baby latch, money isn't going to reassure a mum that she's doing okay, money won't make a woman want to breastfeed or make her like it.
Let mothers decide for themselves.
Then again, that's what they're good at......offering band-aid solutions to manipulate statistics.
Well Mr Government, we're not statistics, we're human beings. We have choices. We won't be bought.
* Yes I know some adoptive mothers have successfully induced lactation.