Mothers Paid to Breastfeed? UK Has the 'Worst Breastfeeding Rates in the World,' Says Research

A new program in the U.K. will offer a cash incentive to get new mothers to breastfeed in order to increase the practice and overcome its "negative" stigma.

The new program will use mothers in central England and offer them about $200 if they breastfeed for six weeks, with the possibility of increasing that amount if they continue with the practice for up to six months.

The new pilot program is being facilitated through a joint partnership with the government and Sheffield University and aims at increasing breastfeeding rates, which is thought to increase the overall health of the child.

"The UK has one of the worst breastfeeding rates in the world and breastfeeding rates vary very widely across different parts of the country," Clare Relton of Sheffield University said in a statement. "Babies who are breastfed have fewer health problems such as upset tummies and chest infections, and are less likely to develop diabetes and obesity when they are older."

Roughly 100 mothers in less affluent areas will take part in the study given, that figures show newborns are four times more likely to be breastfeed if they are born into affluent households.

Britain's National Health Service advises new mothers to feed their babies only breast milk for the first six months-- an occurance that only happens 34 percent of the time, Relton added.

There seems to be a cultural stigma associated with breastfeeding in some areas in Britain. Some critics warn that financial incentives will not be able to overcome deep-seated cultural norms that have been in place for generations.

"In many areas, including those in this study, there are generations of women who may not have seen anyone breastfeeding their baby, meaning it is not the cultural norm in many communities," Janet Fyle, policy advisor to the Royal College of Midwives, told AFP.

"The motive for breastfeeding cannot be rooted by offering financial reward. It has to be something that a mother wants to do in the interest of the health and well-being of her child," Fyle said.

Should the program turn out to be successful, it could be across the U.K. by next year.

There are questions surrounding the oversight of the new program, though. The initiative will rely on the mothers to report whether or not they are breastfeeding, with the participants being able to use the vouchers at local supermarkets and retailers.