October 20, 2008

The Cost of Baby Formula


Image by TW Collins via Flickr

What is the real cost of baby formula? Breastfeeding is not just a healthy choice, it’s also an economical choice. And the longer you breastfeed, the more the savings add up. As babies mature, they eat more. If you’re bottle-feeding, that means your expenses grow along with your baby. Nursing, by contrast, costs no more at six months than it does at six days.

In a 1998 study, Dr. Marta Sovyanhadi of the Long Beach, California, Department of Health and Human Services estimated it costs a mother only $90.36 in extra calorie intake to breastfeed an infant for the first six months.

[ad#ad-2] You also are saving in healthcare costs for your baby. Studies show breastfed babies get sick less often, need fewer doctor visits, and are hospitalized less often than formula-fed babies. For working mothers, that means an added savings of less time lost on the job.

The chart below shows what not having to buy bottles and formula saves you, based on how long you nurse.

* By breastfeeding you are saving well over $1,000 the first year. That’s money you can spend on other things, like education, savings, or a special treat to make nursing even easier!

* Figures include the average cost of brands of premixed and powdered formula available in grocery stores here in Northampton, Massachusetts, as well as the purchase of four bottles and nipples every two months.

Cost of Formula and Bottles Month Cumulative Nursing Savings
1 $102
2 $196
3 $320
4 $443
5 $567 6 $691
7 $815
8 $938
9 $1,062
10 $1,186
11 $1,309
12 $1,433

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Alexis Rodrigo

  • Becka says:

    Wonderful break down of the true costs behind formula. I don’t think we will ever truely be able to put a price on breastfeeding vs formula. With all the health and mind benefits, breast feeding can actually save money for generations to come.

    Becka´s last blog post..A Word About Supplementing

  • Alexis says:

    @ Becka: You couldn’t have said it better! this post doesn’t even consider the health care costs of using infant formula on both children and women, which would be tremendous.

  • […] You can save roughly $1,000 in formula costs alone in your baby’s first year by breastfeeding. Read about out the cost of baby formula. […]

  • Erin says:

    Actually, this wasn’t true for me. I desperately wanted to breastfeed, but ultimately was not able to because I have a chronic disease that required category X medication to keep me out of the hospital. I did breastfeed for 6 weeks before I landed in the ICU, but we never had an easy time of it. In prep for tax season, I went through my expenses:

    $400 on 3 visits to a Lactation Consultant
    $90 on prescriptions for Thrush and Mastitis ($30 copay)
    $350 on a pump
    $60 on bottles and storage bags to work with the pump
    $200 on nursing tops and bras
    $40 on lanolin creams and gel pads
    $30 on a Boppy pillow
    $30 on Fenugreek and special teas to help my supply
    TOTAL: $1200 in 6 weeks.

    I won’t talk about the value of my own time (at one point, I nursed for 13 hours straight to try to get my supply to cooperate), or the $2000 copay for my hospital stay, which my doctors say probably wouldn’t have happened if I’d taken their advice and formula-fed from the start – both of those are definitely a stretch.

    Conversely, my son is doing well on Target Up&Up formula at $15 per week, and our Playtex bottles cost $30. Add on 2 doctors visits (breastfed babies get sick less, although at 8 months mine has never been sick), and we’re at $870 annually.

    I’d rather be breastfeeding. If I had a choice, I’d be on a pumping break right now; the benefits of breast milk are very clear, no matter the cost.

    However, to say that it has no cost isn’t typical of most women’s experiences. My expenses were clearly on the high end, but the cost of breastfeeding is NOT zero – even if you only purchase nursing pads and bras. When you take these breastfeeding-related expenses into account, what was your cost? Probably still less than formula, but not $0.

  • Catie says:

    I agree that breastfeeding does have a $ cost, but is well worth it!
    I exclusively breastfeed for 9-10 months before introducing a little table food. We continued with breast feeding for another 9 months. We did not use any formula and little to no baby food. Within the first few weeks I consulted a lactation specialist 3 times. I would have struggled without that added assistance. My insurance covered the majority so I only had co-pays. I fed from the breast as much as I could but since I returned to work after 10 weeks of leave, I required a good pump and accessories, bottles and nipples, and storage bags to express, store, and feed with (all the while still nursing in the mornings and evenings). I purchased a few clothing items, but found them not to be that much easier for me, so mostly used my regular clothes. I did invest is a Boppy – nursing pillow and really found it helpful. My overall expenses were around $800 to breastfeed for 18 months.
    I cleaned and stored my investment pieces, so now that I’m expecting #2, I will have reduced costs. I have to purchase new pump accessories, storage bags, and nipples but pump, bottles, pillows, and clothes are ready for use. I also plan on seeing a lactation specialist again at least once or twice. So my estimated costs to breast feed #2 is about $300.
    Overall I feel we got out-of-pocket savings as well as immeasurable health benefits. But the nursing bonding time was the best part!

  • Claire says:

    I agree to a degree that BFing is not free, BUT it was all optional (depending on your lifestyle choice). I had a free consultation with a LC (who didn’t diagnose the thrush I had) I went to LLL which did diagnose me, for free. I took acidophilus tablets 90 for $7. I took them for 18 months, So that is $42. I got a boppy at a yard sale (but I could technically have gone without) that was $10. I got a pump from a friend at a garage sale (yeah, go ahead…’That is dangerous’) for $5. I used it for 2 years. I was given nursing tank and bras, milk bags, and bottles (which we used maybe three times :/ Teas, cost $2 an ounce, so let’s say I spend $4 total. I bought the pads (I didn’t really need them) And I went to the Baby R Us classes and got free lanolin. So in the 2 1/2 years that I breastfed my daughter it cost–$61 out of my pocket…So a little under $25 a year. Now my daughter did get a funky rash (which turns out was an allergy to grape skins :/ and once got a plantar’s wart, but after wasting a lot of time and money on doctors. I just stopped taking her 🙂 She is 5 1/2 now, and since I realized that they never really treated her anyway ( just baffled me with a lot of BS), and we stopped going, she never gets sick. So sure, some people will incur cost with BFing, but most is unnecessary- and I suggest Le Leche League to everyone!! The collective genius of these women will generally help you better than a doctor 95% of the time…and if they can’t they will point you to a SAFE doctor

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