Only one third of British women breastfeed for the recommended six monthsCredit:Anthony Devlin Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. In areas where the vouchers were trialed breastfeeding rates at eight weeks old were just 28 per cent, but that rose to 34 per cent with the incentives. Researchers estimate that raising breastfeeding levels could save the NHS £17 million each year, because it protects babies from infections.However experts warned that there were major problems with the study.Andrew Whitelaw, Emeritus Professor of Neonatal Medicine at the University of Bristol, said: “The trial design could not avoid the possibility that an economically deprived mother would be tempted to report she was breastfeeding (when she was not) in order to receive a 200 pound reward.“This trial is worth publishing because it highlights the difficulties in researching this problem but is not a justification for a general policy of economically rewarding mothers who reporting breastfeeding in areas with low breastfeeding rates.”The NHS has previously spend funds on cash payments of up to £425 for those who lose weight, and shopping vouchers for teenage girls who walk to school.The trial findings are published in JAMA Pediatrics. New mothers could be ‘bribed’ with £200 in shopping vouchers to breastfeed their children, following a major five year trial part-funded by Public Health England.More than 10,000 women living on South Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire were offered £120 in vouchers for stores such as Argos, Debenhams, Tesco, Asda and Morrisons, if they signed forms declaring they had breastfed their child for six weeks.They received a further £80 if they were still breastfeeding at six months to ‘acknowledge the work’ involved in breastfeeding.Although fewer than half of women took up the offer, and breastfeeding rates were raised just six per cent, the University of Sheffield declared the results as ‘significant, making it more likely to be rolled out nationally.However critics have argued that there was nothing to stop women using the vouchers for cigarettes and alcohol. They also warned that signing a form did not mean women were actually breastfeeding, and claimed that it penalised women who could not breastfeed.In an ongoing poll on the Telegraph website asking whether women should be paid to breastfeed, 72 per cent of readers said no. Principal investigator Dr Clare Relton, from the University of Sheffield’s School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR), said: “Our scheme offered vouchers to mothers as a way of acknowledging the value of breastfeeding to babies and mothers and the work involved in breastfeeding.“The trial found a significant increase in breastfeeding rates in areas where the scheme was offered.“It seems that the voucher scheme helped mothers to breastfeed for longer. Mothers reported they felt rewarded for breastfeeding.”The NHS recommends that mothers exclusively breastfeed their babies during the first six months.Research has found that breastfed babies have fewer health problems, such as chest infections, and are less likely to develop health problems such as diabetes, or become obese, when they are older.But currently only one third of children are breastfed at six months, and that just one per cent only receive breast-milk by this stage.