Breast Milk Research and Policy


Breastfeeding is a powerful intervention in the prevention of disease and promotion of health in both infant and mother in the short and long term.

Yet breastfeeding rates in the UK are among the lowest worldwide, resulting in increased preventable illnesses for children and mothers and substantial associated costs to the health service.

Because infant feeding is socially patterned, low breastfeeding rates have a serious impact on inequalities in health.

The advantage of financial support (incentives) is its ability to attract and engage its target audience. The impact of financial support (incentives) to women for breastfeeding is a relatively unexplored area.

NOSH (Vouchers for breastfeeding)

The NOSH (NOurishing Start for Health) study tested the feasibility, acceptability and effectiveness of offering financial support to mothers to breastfeed in areas with low breastfeeding rates. The goal of the study was to develop an intervention that would help increase the prevalence and duration of breastfeeding.

The study was funded by NPRI/ MRC and conducted in the north of England (parts of South Yorkshire, Derbyshire and North Nottinghamshire).

The study had three stages, each with success criteria for progression to the next stage. The first stage developed the intervention (completed June 2013). This included the NOSH Booklet which described the scheme, the Welcome letter (add hyperlink) and Claim forms (add hyper link). The second stage tested the feasibility and deliverability of the intervention (completed July 2014). The third stage of the study assessed the impact of the intervention using a cluster Randomised Controlled Trial design with a mixed methods process/context evaluation. The trial was completed in September 2016. The results of the trial were published in November 2017 (insert JAMA pediatrics hyperlink here). For other publications etc arising from the NOSH Study see this page - insert hyperlink to the publications webpage)

We are now in the process of developing the next stage of this research. We plan to study different forms of the incentive (different amounts etc), in different parts of the UK. All areas of the UK are eligible to take part in this study. The purpose of this next stage (which we are calling 'Valuing Breastfeeding in the UK') is to provide the information needed by those who commission infant feeding services and those who make infant feeding policy decisions in the UK, so that they can use public resources in a way that optimises the health of the UK population, reducing the risk of disease in infancy, childhood, and adulthood.