Bribes for breastfeeding: A dad’s opinion

DadblogukI appreciate I’m a bit late to wade in on the bribes for breastfeeding debate. I hope you’ll excuse my tardiness but I’ve been looking after a child that had a stomach bug.

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.

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About John Adams

John Adams is a married with two young daughters. He has been a stay at home dad for almost four years.

John started blogging back in 2012 after being invited to one-too-many “mother and toddler groups.” This inspired him to write about the issues he faced as a stay at home dad and the gender barriers men face as parents.

John continues to write about lie as a stay at home dad. He also writes about every aspect of parenting; schooling, education, pregnancy and birth, childcare and so on. Over time he has broadened the focus of his blog so he now writes about family finances, photography and occasionally covers men’s style and fashion.

John was originally a journalist. He concedes, however, that was a long time ago.

20 Comments

  1. 16 November 2013 / 07:57

    Great to hear a dads side on the issue! My husband thought it was a great idea all i could see was him thinking ps4 lol. I agree with your comments about educating men, my husband was adamant i would breastfeed when ever the issue came up he would say breast is best, and only the best for my princess! Annoying but helpful when i wanted to quit lol

  2. 16 November 2013 / 09:33

    Men should receive more education about breast feeding, however it’s stalwart support women need. I wouldn’t have made the first six weeks of raw nipples, mastitis, sleepless nights, without cuddles, tissues and on tap tea! Problem was I couldn’t stop – 5 years later he had to have a man-to-man discussion with my son about why mummy needed her boobs back!
    I hear what you say about families in need but surely the £200 is more about incentive, I’d have been dreaming about £50 of it for a massage or beauty treatment. When running a marathon and you hit the wall, the money you’re raising for charity or medal you will win helps to find the inner strength to carry on!

    • 16 November 2013 / 17:04

      You’re right Janthea, this is all about incentive. I’m just not convinced incentive is the correct way to go about it. Increased eduction would, I’d have thought, be a better route to success.

      As for breastfeeding for five years, I htink you deserve a medal. Or long-term service award.

  3. 16 November 2013 / 10:01

    Hi Sara – I’m glad to hear there’s some support for my idea of better breastfeeding education for men! I think men, when educated, can be very supportive whatever the mum’s situation.

  4. 16 November 2013 / 10:47

    You are spot on about the importance of men in the debate about breastfeeding. Research (and common sense) has shown that mums are more likely to breastfeed if dads are educated about it. I find it amazing when some of my HypnoBirthing clients tell me that they have attended breastfeeding classes but that the dads have been excluded. How nuts is that?

    • 16 November 2013 / 16:58

      Thank you Helen. It’s exactly that attitude that needs to be challenged (IE, excluding men from breastfeeding sessions). it’s utterly bizarre to think that men would have no interest in how their children are fed.

  5. 16 November 2013 / 15:02

    My husband’s favourite thing about breastfeeding was that he didn’t have to do any feeds, especially not the night or early mornings. Also, as it’s free I saved us a lot of money. Winning.

    Appealing to lazy and stingy men would be a strong tactic.

    • 16 November 2013 / 16:53

      It is the lazy and stingy men that need the education. I must say ‘though, your husband got off very lightly. Weren’t you tempted to express and get him to do the occasional night feed???

      • Beckyboo
        16 November 2013 / 19:35

        You need the night feeds to keep milk production going and bottle introduce nipple confusion. Plus for a missed feed you need to pump to stop engorgement. So co-sleeping is the best plan, feed in bed with baby, as is traditional in most countries. No settling no crying and more sleep.

      • Louise
        16 November 2013 / 22:17

        I would say that my husband was integral to my breast feeding journey, despite having never given either of our two boys a bottle.
        He attended breastfeeding classes with me before our first was born and was very supportive of me feeding our two boys and even when it was hard at the start with our first, he never suggested stopping or giving a bottle or two of formula (that would not have been the sort of support I would have wanted). He offered to feed a bottle of expressed milk occasionally, but expressing was such an extra chore to me that yielded virtually nothing, that I didn’t really ever bother.
        Our second baby was born 8 weeks premature in our lounge (by accident obviously) and with no midwife around, my husband caught the baby (whilst our 2 year old was watching) and again, so began a story of support. He was the only person who continued to be on my side when the medical professionals at the NICU were telling me to stop pumping milk because I would never get to feed our son. My family were supportive but it was along the ‘maybe they’re right’ sort of support, whereas my husband never doubted that I would breastfeed our son and, on a couple of occasions, fought my corner with the staff when I had all but given up. I did end up breastfeeding him and am still doing so at 2.5 years old. I don’t think I would have even made it past the six weeks of solid pumping in NICU without him and his support and encouragement.
        I agree with you and think that in the absence of the very close knit female community women used to have (feeding round the fire together etc), the woman’s partner has the power, second only to the mother, to make breastfeeding a success.

        • 18 November 2013 / 20:15

          I’m finding this very heartwarming. There are some wonderful tales of very supportive dads coming through as a result of this blog post!

          I admire your perseverance and I’m very glad it paid off.

  6. Charlotte
    16 November 2013 / 20:08

    I don’t know where this idea came from that dad should want to get up in the night to feed a bottle of expressed milk.

    Firstly, to whole supply/ demand element of breastfeeding means that if the mother doesn’t express at the 3am feed time, her body may then assume it doesn’t need to make milk for the 3am feed – and then what happens if the dad isn’t there one night? For some women, missing one feed is enough to impact on supply.

    Secondly, what is the sense in both parents being knackered? Far better for the breastfeeding mother to do the breastfeeding and the non breastfeeding parent to let he have a lie in/ do more housework.

    • 18 November 2013 / 20:22

      Quite right, dad doesn’t need to get up at 3am to feed a bottle of expressed milk. He could do a 3pm feed and allow mum to have a rest in the afternoon. Some (I’d like to think most) dads want to get involved and want to understand the process of breastfeeding. They’re our kids, why shouldn’t we show an interest in their feeding and, if possible and practical, play a part in feeding them?

  7. Gina
    16 November 2013 / 23:35

    My wonderful hubby had learnt nothing of bf prior to my giving birth despite my research and decision to do it long before I’d ever fallen pregnant. He learnt as we went through (as did I in many respects as breastfeeding was not the smoothest of most perfect of experiences with my first child for the fists 3 months). He endured the 2 hourly feeds, the fact I suffered a lot during those early days and the early mornings and late nights and crazy patterns. He sat with me through every feed for the first 3 weeks and got up with me at night. He sat beside me one the night i sat and wept at the pain and the feeling of failure if i was to give up now. I went on like that for a few weeks suffering due to no fault of mine or the service I was provided my daughter had a good attachment but I suffered an internet graze and lost skin on my nipples due to general skin sensitivity and nothing could really have prevented it. I can promise you £200 would not have help me battle on it was not my driving force that had me breast feed both my children for nearly a year. It was not my enjoyment of that experience either nor a sheer bloody-mindedness that pulled me through. It was my companion, my life partner the man I chose to conceive and raise my family with. My husband was an “untapped” force, had he been better educated on breastfeeding he may have felt less afraid and helpless at the hardest points but it was his presences during those long and painful nights, his words of love and support and the small acts of kindness that changed the shape of that experience from a dark time to a time of unity and closeness as a family. I do think you are on to something. Men are untapped in the potential to support breastfeeding. They are largely left out of the debate, their feelings, concerns, even their support and encouragement is largely ignored by social standing in fact I rarely hear fellow breastfeeding mothers talk of the success of their husbands/ partners in the context of breastfeeding and yet while i suffered he felt helpless yet my husband over came that to be what help he could be to be the support I needed to power through those difficult first few weeks. He made it all possible and I strongly feel if more fathers were included in the debate open to the discussions and provided with the tools to be the support the mother of their child needs should she chose to breast feed. I think the money is better spent on education and support all round not just for mum or dad and not just focused on breastfeeding but on how to unite together as parents to talk through parenting choices understand and support and encourage. as I said it was the small acts of kindness and the love my husband showed me in that time that made all the difference and brought us together at a time where we were both so very tired and could so easily have been at each other. Educating, supporting and encouraging families as a unit and not seeing breastfeeding as a mother role exclusively, inclusive support is the key. It is for this reason along with so many other reasons and faults that a bribe/ incentive what ever the government call it will fail. Parenting choices should not be made on what gimmick the NHS rolls out it should be an inclusive discussion between partners, knowing all the facts and ALL the rewards, and ALL the implications before embarking on a journey together.

    • 18 November 2013 / 20:10

      A wonderful response Gina and one that clearly shows that men can play a valuable role supporting their partner. Very glad it worked out for you and that you obviously have a very supportive other half.

  8. 17 November 2013 / 11:51

    Totally agree that a man’s support can be vital to successful breastfeeding. My man was incredible helpful, supportive and encouraging even thought things got pretty messy. He was also behind me 100% when I posted pics of myself breastfeeding online this week in response to the breastfeeding voucher news. (but now I’m worried that I’m going to be in trouble with Grandma.) Whether it’s from your baby daddy, family, friends or strangers,support during breastfeeding is so important.

    • 18 November 2013 / 20:23

      I won’t tell your gran, promise. Thanks for responding and glad to hear you have an involved and supportive partner.

  9. 18 November 2013 / 09:41

    You make a fantastic point of using money to educate men on how to be a support for women and fully understand breast feeding. However, that only works in the cases of women who are in a relationship/married/with the baby’s father etc. But you’re right, in the cases where there is a man around, or another person/partner, for that matter, resources could be better spent.

    I see so many flaws in this scheme. I can see the money being spent on all the wrong things. Maybe if they were vouchers for food only for the point you make on breast feeding mothers needing more calories? But there are women out there who desperately want to breastfeed and for reasons out of their control, can’t! What do they get?

    I’m pretty sure that the reason a lot of women breastfeed is because it works out as being a lot cheaper than formula feeding, therefore I fail to see why they would need extra money?

    Besides, when it really comes down to it, I’m not even 100% convinced that breast feeding is even that much more better off for a child anyways in this day and age! {Ooh controversial!!!}

    The bottom line is, incentives are never the right way to go about things. Support, resources, education, acceptance and understanding are all key to making breast feeding a success in society. I saw another scheme recently about parents getting money for going to classes to help their child with their homework?! Where will it end???

    • 18 November 2013 / 20:07

      Yup, the scheme’s flawed. It’s far too easy to exploit.

      I’m intrigued by this homework scheme though. Should parents really need an incentive to do this? Unreal!