Former midwives will be offered a £3,000 "golden hello" as an incentive to return to the profession, the government announced today.
The measure was unveiled as part of a pledge to recruit 4,000 NHS midwives over the next three years.
The government hopes many of these positions can be filled by former midwives who have taken a career break, who will be encouraged back with incentives including free training, support with childcare and travel costs and a £1,500 grant.
Newly qualified midwives can earn between £19,600 and £25,500 a year and a consultant midwives can earn up to £62,500.
A joint Return to Practice campaign will be launched by the Department of Health (DoH) and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) in the summer.
With the birth rate once again rising the government accepts the extra midwifes are necessary to offer adequate care to new mothers.
Health secretary Alan Johnson said the first 1,000 midwives would be recruited by 2009, ideally rising to 4,000 by 2012.
Mr Johnson said: "Many of these extra midwives will be new to the profession, but there are also former midwives whose expertise could be brought back to the NHS given the right support.
"This is why we will make up to £3000 worth of support available to each returning midwife, providing free training and financial support while they study."
On the back of a critical Healthcare Commission report into maternity services, the government last month announced additional funding of £330 million over three years.
Today Mr Johnson confirmed trusts will be able to access this additional money from April to invest in expanding the workforce.
However, the Conservatives maintain it is not clear where the money for extra midwives is coming from and accused Gordon Brown of "raiding" budgets for public health.
Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley dismissed the latest announcement as "headline chasing" rather than sound policy.
Mr Lansley said: "After two years of the number of midwives falling, it is clearly right to increase the number of midwives, but it's too late for the government to meet its promise for every mother giving birth to have her own midwife by 2009.
"Now, will the government ensure that the choices that mothers want to make about child care are supported, including home births and midwife-led births, as well as obstetric units?"
The RCM has welcomed today's announcement as a "significant step" towards delivering on Maternity Matters, the government's blue-print for maternity services.
RCM general secretary Dame Karlene Davis said: "The RCM will wish to see a sustained programme of support for midwives from the government. We will continue to work with the government and the NHS to achieve this."