Is Breastfeeding Really Free?

There are many benefits to breastfeeding. The main one is the health of the baby. A secondary benefit is faster weight loss for the mom, in most cases. Often, you’ll also hear the cost savings touted. Formula costs around $30 a can, and a newborn goes through a can week. The costs rise from there as the infant starts to take in more formula, so formula costs $120 a month to start and then goes up. Breastfeeding is usually cheaper than that (unless you’re me), but it’s not totally free.

Breastfeeding Costs
Although it’s not truly free, it’s still cheaper in most cases. Here are the increased costs:

Additional food for mom: $5 or more per week. In my case, it amounts to $30 more. Since I have to be gluten-free, and had to go dairy-free after my baby proved to have a cow’s milk protein intolerance, my food costs rose dramatically. In order to meet the extra 1000 calories a day I now needed, I had to switch from corn tortilla wraps to gluten-free sandwiches. Since I didn’t have time to bake bread, that meant an extra $10 a week on gluten-free bread. In addition, my additional snacks total up to $15-20 per week since they also have to be dairy free. If I could snack on cheese, life would be cheaper.

Breast pump: $0-300 once. Thanks to Obamacare, some or all of this may be covered by your health insurance. Call your insurer before buying a pump to determine what is covered, where you need to buy it, and how to submit your claim. If you plan to return to work, you will need a double-electric, which is about $300. You may also want a single manual pump, which is $30. Sure, you can get away without a pump if you don’t plan to return to work and don’t plan to ever leave your baby along long enough to need a bottle. This isn’t usually realistic, though. You may also want a pump in the beginning to help establish your supply, or may need to pump if you develop mastitis or a plugged duct and need to pump more often than your baby nurses.

Pump Bottles and Parts: $3 per month. Budget about $10 to buy a few additional bottles if you’ll be pumping at work, and another $8 every quarter for replacement membranes.

Milk Storage Bags: $10 periodically If you’re pumping to replace daytime feedings, you’ll probably also want some freezer storage bags. You can find them on Amazon, and the price varies widely. I got a box of 50 for about $10. I don’t pump enough to freeze a ton, so that should probably hold me a good long while.

You may also need pump replacement parts like tubing, flanges, valves, etc., but that really varies so much that it’s hard to estimate.

So, breastfeeding is definitely cheaper in the long run. Yes, my food bill went up a lot, but this will not be the typical experience. In addition, formula babies increase the quantity they consume over time, so the formula cost rises each month. Breastfed babies pretty much eat the same amount all the time because the nutrients in the breastmilk change over time to meet the baby’s exact needs.  At seven months, my daughter takes the same three ounce bottle she always took.

As a bonus, I don’t need to pay for a gym membership, because I lost 35 pounds breastfeeding, and I only gained 30 while pregnant! Of course, now I need to go buy new clothes, but that would have happened anyway because my body shape has changed.

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