Incentivised breastfeeding

Incentivised breastfeeding, all mums are talking about it, and I do understand everyone’s point of view. But I thought it might be useful to share my story having taken advantage of the incentivised breastfeeding:

I’m from Belgium and our health care system is completely different. We don’t have 100% free health care, but health care is based on everyone’s income.

In Belgium mothers get £200 euro extra maternity pay (from government) for 2, 4 and 6 months of breastfeeding.
In my early (unplanned) pregnancy, I was very work focussed and planned to bottle feed. Hearing about the incentive ( I had a management job 70h+, so not low income neither extremely high) it made me think twice: Why does the government give incentives? I researched and learned more about breastfeeding. I was determined to breastfeed because I researched it.

During the first weeks just like most mums I found it really really hard at times. The long nights etc etc. The incentive was one of the reasons to persist and reach the first 2 month mile stone. After the 2 months it became easier, by then we sort of could really use the extra money but I was also totally hooked on my baby. I was grateful…

How they checked it? Well basically the midwife or doctors do spend more time talking to you, in Belgium you have a much more personal people relation with your gp, rather then patients being numbers whom have to be dealt with in 7 minutes. (In Belgium they count 10-20 min per patient!) Young babies fed on demand often get bored at the GP, hence they request feeding. Midwife sessions and gynea appointments in Belgium actually check the patient (inside out ;) ) rather then asking questions and filling out a sheet. So during a real follow-up check (including checking blockages or breast infections) it becomes clear if the mother is still lactating or not.
Breast fed babies also automatically seek for the milk and thus this shows, even when not feeding in front of your gp.

I made it till month 4 and 6 as in meanwhile it was a habit, something that had become my second nature, whereas in the beginning I struggled e.g. my baby never fed longer then a minute on one side, she was up minimum every 2 hours for the first ten months, I had my first period after 4 weeks and each time I had my period my milk nearly stopped for two days where I had to top up with bottles, etc…
The incentive also helped my partner to be more supportive rather then him suggesting to give up as ‘it would be easier’ and ‘the baby will sleep better’.

In the end I breastfed my daughter till she was two, while setting up the business, I am so happy I did. I feel fortunate that I was able to do so. But I do admit without the incentive I might have given up in my first two months. The incentive to me was a proof that it was REALLY important and not just another campaign. Why else would the government give money away?

I agree that it might be wiser to give vouchers rather then deposit the money on the mums account, so that the vouchers can be spend on the baby or food rather then less healthier options.
In a certain way it might also give the larger retailers whom make lots of money selling formula more supportive of breastfeeding as they will not loose out on the sale of formula, it will still drive the parents to their shop.

So in brief: I agree that this is a very sensitive topic as so many mums want to breastfeed but physically can’t, and I have no way of justifying the incentivised breastfeeding considering those who medically can not. But it might help those who do breastfeed, feed for a bit longer and it might make people more aware of the importance of breastfeeding, giving away money is a statement to the public that they really support it and it’s not just a campaign, this is making the choice more tangible for those who have not breastfed before, for those who are not aware of the benefits or for those who are not supported in their breastfeeding choice by peers.

What are your thoughts?


5 responses to “Incentivised breastfeeding

  1. It’s great the system works, did make you change your mind and rewarded you for persevering. Unfortunately my experience with breastfeeding and the UK healthcare system means I take a very different look – for those who can’t breastfeed it just feel like another way of repeating what a failure you are for not getting an additional £200 to spend on your child.


    • I respect that. And I don’t have the answers on how they could solve that issue.

      The entire healthcare system is so different in Belgium: monthly scans at gynea (paid, but the option is there), 3 free ones throughout the pregnancy, monthly midwife sessions and closer to birth weekly and when you are overdue daily. I had a midwife with me at home throughout my 52 hours of labour, before all together going to the hospital and about a 6th of the price they charge in the uk (cost of food and living is same in Belgium btw). After birth you stay at the hospital for 2-3 days, for a small extra fee (refunded by your insurance) you can get a private room, and have the father stay there day and night to. Regardless which room you are in you then have 5 full days breastfeeding support at the touch of a button. Daily visit of a kine practitioner for pelvic exercises etc…

      But the negative difference is: In Belgium mums are supposed to go back to work after 12 weeks, unless there are medical risks at the work place for expressing…..

      Having read more other blogs in meanwhile, I do believe extra breastfeeding support is better first step in helping, however I don’t think those in Belgium who can not breastfeed are so upset about not getting the cash. I have many friends who choose bottle early on (eg after 3 weeks), as it also allowed them to go to work sooner (3 months) and to be fair I have never heard anyone being upset about it there.

      The general feel is more like: “Waw, you still breastfeeding? I could not do it…to hard work”


  2. Brilliant. Really a refreshing look at this topic. I wasn’t as ‘shocked’ or ‘annoyed’ as others have been today and tried to blog about it, but I don’t think I expressed myself as well as I could.

    Well done x


    • Thank you, I don’t consider myself a good blogger (not very good at expressing myself without upsetting people ;) unwillingly), but I do post a more personal topic on our blog once and a while… just thought to let everyone know what it is like on the other side from a normal hard working mum who was only career driven before pregnancy. So not from lower income or un-educated. Not everything has to be that black and white in life I guess.

      For me hearing about the breastfeeding incentive was a first step to parenting with awareness.


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