Thursday, April 22, 2010

cost of breastfeeding

First of all, I'm not anti-breastfeeding. I am pro-baby feeding. There are fewer and fewer breastfeeding moms these days, and more and more formula feeders. This has given rise to a debate on the merits of brestfeeding. Many studies have been done. I've heard many arguments in favor of breastfeeding, some that I don't believe are particularly true. The main one that is not true is that breastfeeding is free. It's not free.

Nate had latch issues. He will only take a bottlle. I was going to have to pump when I returned to work, so I already had a good pump and a collection of bottles. I thought, "No problem. I can pump and he'll still have milk." I hoped to be able to pump exclusively until he started solids. But I have supply issues. I pumped for 3 months before my supply was too low for it to be worth it. My average output was about 14 oz per day. Nate eats twice that, so we had to give him formula, too.

Here's what I spent to provide that little bit of breastmilk for my son: Medela Pump in Style Advanced - $215 (retail $280); nursing pads - $11/box, 3 boxes; nursing bras - $35 for 3 (retail $34/each); nursing tanks - $17, plus 3 free hand-me-downs (retail $17/each); case of mother's milk tea and bottle of fenugreek (to boost my supply) - $27. Total: $327; total retail price: $510.

January - March is 90 days. With an average of 14 oz per day, I estimate that I pumped 1260 oz of breastmilk. That cost me 26 cents per oz, and the retail value was 40 cents per oz. Ouch.

Sam's Club formula has a calculator on their website to show how much you'd save compared to a name brand formula. Since all formula is required to have the same ingredients, there's really no reason to not use generic, unless your baby has a very sensitive tummy and can only handle a certain brand. The calculator shows that a 6 oz bottle of Sam's Club formula costs 30 cents, that's 5 cents per oz. Formula is cheap.

Had I been able to keep it up, it would have cost less per oz. Also, had I been able to supply 100% of his dietary needs, it would have cost less per oz. Assuming he keeps having 28 oz per day for the first year, figuring in the need to continue buying nursing pads and lactation support supplements, my price would be 4.9 cents per oz, retail 6.7 cents per oz. Other merits of breastfeeding aside, even as a frugal shopper, it's only a tenth of a cent cheaper per oz than formula, if continued for a year. Certainly not free.


  1. I'm definitely pro baby feeding as well.

    It's tough, because if you're dealing with supply issues, latch issues, or have to pump for whatever reason, BFing isn't free. And in a lot of cases, formula feeding may be cheaper.

    However, if you're not dealing with supply or latch issues, I do think it's close to free to breastfeed. I haven't purchased most of the things you itemized--I think one nursing bra and one nursing cover. So for us, it's WAY cheaper to BF.

  2. I would say if you have no issues and [especially] don't work, then it can be close to free.

  3. Based on your example, if I figured the costs of bait, time it takes to fish, gas to get to and from the fishing hole, fishing tackle, plus the number of fishing trips when I caught nothing to bring home, The cost of fishing compared to what I could buy fish for in the market is way out of line. But there are some intangibles here. Relaxing, withdrawing for awhile to rest, quiet time. With breastfeeding, you also have to figure the intangibles: connection with your baby, peace of mind from the formula debate, mother nature's kitchen, something legitimate to whine about. You can't put a dollar amount on everything.