Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Paid to breastfeed?

If you haven't already heard, there is a pilot scheme going to run in 3 areas of the UK where women will be rewarded for continuing to breastfeed their babies with shopping vouchers up to the value of £200 if they are still feeding at 6 months.

I don't think I have ever seen a BBC article shared by so many people and pages as this article has been today - you can find it here by the way, just in case you haven't seen it.
I've joined in a few conversations about this today, but to be honest, I'm not that fussed, although I did get it when some women said it was insulting, well it is isn't it?
The thing is, something needs to happen.  The rates of breastfeeding in the UK just aren't good enough.  Breastfeeding is hard, trust me I know, but unless there is something in the water making us less medically able than the rest of the world, then the problem has to be cultural. 
I've heard women mention just today about problems latching, lack of supply, hungry babies, unhappy parents and babies, post-natal depression etc etc etc.  These won't magically go away if breastfeeding was more culturally supported, but perhaps, just by the whole country being aware - these problems are more surmountable?
Lots of comments today have mentioned how this money could be better spent on training some breastfeeding councillors or the training of midwives and health visitors.  The thing is, we're not talking a lot of money here - from what I understand, each pilot will involve 130 women, so even if all 130 women successfully breastfed for 6 months, we're only talking £26000.  That's not an earth shattering amount, its not going to train and pay for a full time breastfeeding councillor in that area.
But perhaps, with an incentive, the health visitors will feel more able to keep the conversation open about how to continue and support the mother in breastfeeding, in a light hearted kind of way, you know  - "so are you still planning on a shopping spree when you get to 6 months?"  I think that some heath professionals are so worried that they might be seen as pressurising the women in their care into breastfeeding that they miss the signs that the mother actually needs and wants help.  We're a bit rubbish in the UK at asking for help.
Certainly this is the feeling I got from my Health Visitor.  I'm not going to tell my 'breastfeeding story' now, it deserves its own post, when the time is right, but I feel my HV is worth a mention.  Freshly trained, I had high hopes for this woman.  She diligently worked her way through the booklet of questions - still not completely sure why she needed to know about Little Owl's Uncles who live Hong Kong and Australia, but she seemed keen.  When she asked me how I intended to feed my baby, I replied - breast, I might have made some quip about being far too lazy to sterilise bottles but I was not prepared for her response "don't bother too much about breastfeeding as its quite hard".
It would appear that the latest NHS training had made my Health Visitor more concerned about my mental health than she was about breastfeeding.  Perhaps that is the right thing but when Little Owl was a week old and I thought I was unable to feed her, felt I had failed her so early in her life, that was when I was most at risk of PND.  Not because of unrealistic pressures put on me by the breast is brigade, because actually, I'm intelligent, I can work out breast is best for myself.  Pussyfooting around mothers who need help and direction to breastfeed because you might upset them is not helping either.
Please don't think I'm judging you if you didn't breastfeed for whatever reason.  I also know that my BMI is not what it should be.  I know I don't take enough exercise and miss the target of 5-a-day more often than I hit it.  I have also read about research this week that says children under 2 shouldn't watch any TV - whoops.  I'm not perfect, but you don't need to hide the truth from me in order to protect me.
If my health visitor is typical of the current thinking and training in the NHS, then something is not working. 
Something does needs to be done, we've got to stop worrying about offending the minority and start supporting the majority, and if the vouchers create a 'safe' way to continue the conversation about breastfeeding, then why not give it a go? 

5 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. thanks - never sure how people are going to react, and this such an emotive topic x

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  2. I was lucky enough to breastfeed my second baby for 6 months back in the old days with the help of a wonderful health visitor ,who supported me all the way ,was on my side it was a wonderful time but without her support I would never have managed it and I still remember her kindness 30 years later

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    Replies
    1. I wouldn't have got beyond the first week without my midwife, so thankful to her!

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  3. I was lucky enough to breastfeed my second baby for 6 months back in the old days with the help of a wonderful health visitor ,who supported me all the way ,was on my side it was a wonderful time but without her support I would never have managed it and I still remember her kindness 30 years later

    ReplyDelete

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