Valuing breastfeeding: a qualitative study of women's experiences of a financial incentive scheme for breastfeeding.
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BMC Pregnancy Childbirth
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BACKGROUND: A cluster randomised controlled trial of a financial incentive for breastfeeding conducted in areas with low breastfeeding rates in the UK reported a statistically significant increase in breastfeeding at 6-8 weeks. In this paper we report an analysis of interviews with women eligible for the scheme, exploring their experiences and perceptions of the scheme and its impact on breastfeeding to support the interpretation of the results of the trial. METHODS: Semi-structured interviews were carried out with 35 women eligible for the scheme during the feasibility and trial stages. All interviews were recorded and verbatim transcripts analysed using a Framework Analysis approach. RESULTS: Women reported that their decisions about infant feeding were influenced by the behaviours and beliefs of their family and friends, socio-cultural norms and by health and practical considerations. They were generally positive about the scheme, and felt valued for the effort involved in breastfeeding. The vouchers were frequently described as a reward, a bonus and something to look forward to, and helping women keep going with their breastfeeding. They were often perceived as compensation for the difficulties women encountered during breastfeeding. The scheme was not thought to make a difference to mothers who were strongly against breastfeeding. However, women did believe the scheme would help normalise breastfeeding, influence those who were undecided and help women to keep going with breastfeeding and reach key milestones e.g. 6 weeks or 3 months. CONCLUSIONS: The scheme was acceptable to women, who perceived it as rewarding and valuing them for breastfeeding. Women reported that the scheme could raise awareness of breastfeeding and encourage its normalisation. This provides a possible mechanism of action to explain the results of the trial. TRIAL REGISTRATION: The trial is registered with the ISRCTN registry, number 44898617 , https://www.isrctn.com.