‘Vouchers will penalise bottle-feeding mothers’

Lucy Birks with her daughter Scarlet
Lucy Birks with her daughter Scarlet

More Sheffield mums have voiced concerns over a new scheme which will see shopping vouchers offered to women who breastfeed their babies.

Vouchers for Matalan, John Lewis or Mothercare - as well as for supermarkets - will be handed out as part of a Sheffield University study to mums who opt to breastfeed.

However Lucy Birks, aged 31, from Stannington, said the move will ‘penalise’ women who are forced to bottlefeed their children - even though she supports breastfeeding herself.

Mum-of-two Lucy, who breastfeeds her 13-week-old son Elliot, said: “We should not judge how other people parent - it shouldn’t be anybody else’s business.

“I don’t have a problem with anyone who bottlefeeds. You don’t need an incentive to feed your child. I just think it’s daft.

“It’s penalising other women for bottlefeeding.”

Mothers will be given vouchers worth up to £120 if their babies receive breast milk until they are six weeks old, plus a further £80 if their babies continue to be breastfed until six months.

The NOSH - Nourishing Start for Health - project will involve 130 women from Manor in Sheffield, as well as parts of Chesterfield.

Lucy added: “It’s really derogatory to the areas that they have chosen. Are you going to get people saying they won’t breastfeed unless they get the vouchers?

“If people learned more about bringing up children, and not just necessarily about feeding them, it would not be as bad.”

The mum is a member of a group called Sheffield Slings, where mothers promote more natural parenting methods.

Dr Clare Relton, from the university’s School of Health and Related Research, said the scheme will ‘acknowledge both the value of breastfeeding to babies, mothers and society, and the effort involved’.

But Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter said he did not believe that ‘financial incentives’ were the best way of encouraging mothers to breast feed.

“We believe the main way to promote breastfeeding is to make sure women have all the information they need to make an informed decision,” he said.

What you’ve been saying online:

Natalie poppins

Breastfreeding is brilliant, although it doesn’t sit right after a certain age with me. But no-one should feel pressured into feeding this way. A happy mum equals a happy baby.

Lynn carnall

It’s every woman’s right to breastfeed their baby anywhere they wish, and if midwives helped new mums when they were in hospital they wouldn’t have to be bribed with shopping vouchers!

penny borkett

I was fortunate to be able to breastfeed both my children 30 years ago and I appreciate that it is best for the baby. However, I do think that women who are unable to breastfeed for whatever reason should not be demonised. They should not be treated any differently.


Surely the money could be better spent? Speaking as a dad of two daughters, the eldest was bottlefed because, despite trying, my wife couldn’t breastfeed. This caused my wife a lot of stress and anxiety at the time, not what a new mum needs, made worse by the pro-breastfeeding propaganda. From a dad’s point of view, bottlefeeding is good because dad feels empowered to be able to feed baby, give mum a rest, be more involved in the first few months and helps dad bond with baby much better. The whole issue, and ultimately how parents are going to feed their baby, is the decision of the parents based on their particular situation, and health professionals need to offer unbiased advice and support parents with the decisions they make.


Of course the money can be better spent - I don’t know how this can even be considered. It is up to the individual if they want to breastfeed. Spend the money on informing people more and supporting them. Not everyone can do it - what will this do to them? Probably make them feel excluded. And as for the people who take up breastfeeding due to the vouchers on offer - well, the mothers’ meeting will be a Primark fashion show!

ally dolman

Incentivising with vouchers is ludicrous. Low breastfeeding rates in deprived areas are more about social reasons, not financial - after all, breastfeeding is free. What’s needed is a complete change of attitudes, and I don’t think that can be bought.

ste roe

I think breastfeeding has become a statement, instead of just feeding children - ‘Dare tell me you’re uncomfortable with my breastfeeding, it’s my right and I shall do it whenever and wherever I please’. I believe some mothers actually breastfeed in public for this reason alone, not because their child is hungry.

chelsea procter

Every woman’s choice is hers alone and no-one should ever be pressured into any decision.