With my apologies out the way, I’m trying to get my head around the idea that women in South Yorkshire and Derbyshire could receive a cash bonus of £200 in return for breastfeeding their children.
As soon as I heard of this idea I gave it all the serious consideration it deserved and hit the Internet. Within a couple of minutes I’d gathered the information I needed and had calculated that you could buy approximately 71 Barnsley Chops from a butcher for £200.
I had assumed the idea was to issue these funds to individuals who were struggling financially and desperately needed the money to buy food. Eating an additional 500 calories a day doesn’t come cheap and if a family is really struggling to buy that food, well, I say give ‘em the money.
As I understand it, however, this is not how the system will work, oh no. Women can apply to receive shopping vouchers for £120 in return for a promise they will breastfeed and receive a further £80 worth of shopping vouchers if they’re still breastfeeding after six months.
I see a major flaw in this plan from the start. If, after giving birth, my wife had been presented with a clip board and the offer of £200 for nothing more than a promise, then I’m pretty sure she’d have filled in the paperwork. If she hadn’t, I’d have completed it and forged her signature because it’s basically a tax rebate. In short, I just don’t think the most deserving cases are going to receive this money.
So what would I do with this funding? Well the eagle-eyed reader may have noticed I made reference to a “family really struggling” to buy food. I didn’t use the word mother.
If there’s one thing that annoys me about the breast feeding debate it’s the fact men do not engage with it and are not encouraged to do so. It goes without saying that a woman’s body is hers and she alone should dictate whether her breasts are used for feeding. It’s not for the father to dictate a woman should breast feed. It strikes me, however, that the breast feeding lobby is missing a trick by ignoring us fathers.
Men could be very powerful advocates for breast feeding.
We could be great sources of assistance but as things stand I think we’re an untapped resource. Maybe that money should be spent educating men so they know about every single aspect of breast feeding and, crucially, how to spot when it’s going well and when it’s not working. Why not train men about the workings of a breast pump and make it clear there’s nothing to stop him from bottle feeding his child at three am. I think it would be a great idea.
I have to declare an interest here. I make no secret of the fact my kids were primarily, in fact almost exclusively, formula fed. There was no escape for me. I did almost as many three am feeds as my wife and yet when I speak to my male friends about the times I had to get out of bed at that time of the morning their eyes glaze over. They just never experienced it! Some education might get more men out of bed in the early hours.
With my point made I hope you’ll permit me to digress for a moment. Earlier today I was giving this matter some thought and I recalled a story my grandfather told me many years ago about a crack-pot scheme the British came up with during the colonial period in India.
My grandfather had served in the British military in India during World War II. At one point the Brits were getting a bit worried about population growth and so offered the men free vasectomies. The men just weren’t volunteering for the procedure until one enterprising individual came up with the idea of giving a transistor radio to each man that had his vas deferens severed. The campaign was apparently a huge success.
Perhaps this is where the health authorities in South Yorkshire and Derbyshire are going wrong. Maybe a free DAB radio or Sky+ subscription would get the nation breastfeeding.