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Britain's Paying Moms to Breast-Feed. Should We?

The quest to get more moms on the breast-feeding bandwagon isn't just a trend Stateside; even China's stepped up its efforts in recent years, revealing an aggressive plan to increase its rates by 50 percent by 2020. And now it seems Britain has a breast-feeding plan all its own—though they're employing some pretty interesting tactics over there.

According to reports, a pilot study wants to get to the bottom of whether cash incentives will persuade new moms to breast-feed. So they're going into poor urban areas where breast-feeding usually comes with a major stigma—and they're paying 130 moms to nurse.

OK, so they won't exactly be handed a stack of cold hard cash. But the reward does come pretty close.

If moms in Derbyshire and nearby South Yorkshire breast-feed their babies for the first six weeks, they'll be given shopping vouchers worth around $200. And if they breast-feed up to six months? Well, that ups the ante to over $300.

Think these tactics are a bit much? The experts beg to differ.

"The UK has one of the worst breast-feeding rates in the world and breast-feeding rates vary very widely across different parts of the country," Clare Relton of Sheffield University told the Daily News. Sheffield University is running the pilot in partnership with the British government.

"Babies who are breast-fed have fewer health problems such as upset tummies and chest infections," she continued, "and are less likely to develop diabetes and obesity when they are older." Now consider the fact that a 6-week-old baby born into an wealthy family in Britain is four times more likely to be breast-fed than one in a poor area ... and you can see the reason the government is concerned.

While Britain's National Health Service recommends that moms breast-feed exclusively for the first six months, this actually only happens in about 34 percent of all births. And a lot of this has to do with cultural norms that have carried on for decades.

"In many areas, including those in this study, there are generations of women who may not have seen anyone breast-feeding their baby, meaning it is not the cultural norm in many communities," Relton said.

In case you're a bit skeptical about how the whole thing won't turn into a scheme, we were too. But the study's leaders assure that the moms will be monitored rather closely, and will be checking in with midwives about the status of their breast-feeding regularly.

What do you think of these tactics? Think it's worth trying in the U.S.?

Photograph by: Getty Images/iStockphoto
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