Pioneering trial to increase breastfeeding rates nationwide

Breastfeeding

Our scheme could help more women across the UK breastfeed their babies.

The project, known as the NOurishing Start for Health (NOSH), aims to boost breastfeeding rates in areas where levels remain low.

As part of the NOSH trial, women were offered shopping vouchers worth £120 if they breastfed their baby for up to six weeks and a further £80 if they continued breastfeeding up to six months.

The scheme was rolled-out to 5,000 eligible women across Sheffield, Doncaster, Bassetlaw, Rotherham and areas of North Derbyshire, covering a total of 46 electoral wards. These areas are identified as having poor breastfeeding rates and their results will be compared with those from similar regions where the scheme has not been offered.

Principal investigator Dr Clare Relton from the University of Sheffield’s School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR), said: "For several decades now the majority of babies in the UK have not been getting enough breast milk, and despite many efforts, this situation has not improved. The trial will enable us to find out whether offering vouchers for breastfeeding can significantly increase our stubbornly low breastfeeding rates."

If more women breastfed for longer the NHS could save more than £17 million in hospital and GP visits

The health benefits of breastfeeding are well-documented. Dr Clare Relton said: "Breastfed babies are less likely to be obese when they grow up and they less likely to be hospitalised."

If more women breastfed for longer the NHS could save more than £17 million in hospital and GP visits. But in some areas of the UK only 12 per cent of mothers breastfeed six to eight-week old babies.

Early data from the trial - which was designed by University researchers in collaboration with healthcare professionals - showed positive results. Mothers participating in NOSH said they felt acknowledged for their effort, with one mother describing her experience of the scheme as: "Getting something good for doing something good."

Another mother who took part said: "Sometimes you think 'should I just move on to the bottle now?' and then I think 'oh but then I won't get the money to be able to treat them', so it does help."

Mary Renfrew, Professor of Mother and Infant Health at the University of Dundee, who collaborated in designing the trial, said: "In areas where most babies are bottle fed women need support to breastfeed. This scheme could make a difference. It was great to be able to test it properly in a large trial."

The results from the trial are now being analysed further.