The estimated cost of formula for the first six months is
over $700 dollars, leading many breastfeeding enthusiasts to make the argument:
"Why not breastfeed? It's free!"
Personally, I tried my best to breastfeed, not because it was
free, but because I thought it would be better for my kid. In the end, it ended
up costing me more than I had bargained for, both financially and in terms of
Here's a run-down of all the breastfeeding related costs I racked up in the first six months alone, as well as the one priceless lesson I
learned trying to be an exclusive breastfeeder.
My little one was born jaundiced and
tongue-tied, and couldn't stay awake long enough to nurse for those first few
weeks, which are the most crucial for building a supply, meaning I had to pump
several times a day. Thank goodness for insurance! I was able to score a free
breast pump to start saving up milk, but that might not be the case for
stay-at-home, uninsured or part-time moms who aren't covered. These things are
Initially I went with a cheaper
version of the bottle heater, but after it nearly caught fire I upgraded, and also had to switch bottles to avoid nipple confusion.
Milk Storage Bags
Sadly, I never got a chance to use
these because my supply was so low, but my producing friends go through at
least a box a month, so almost $100 for the first six months.
Bra #1: Medela Hands-Free Pumping Bra
Wow! I can now pump hands-free,
but this thing is not exactly user friendly. First you can't get it on, then
you can't get it off, and you have to strip down each time you want to pump. Who
the heck designed this thing?! I used it a handful of times and donated it.
Bra #2: Hands-free Crossover Pumping Bra #2.
Ah! I no longer look and feel like
a boob. This is a keeper! Now if only some milk would start coming.
Lactation Consultant Visit #1
Turns out, Hugo isn't latching
properly, which is why I look like I've been mauled by a piranha and am coming
up short on my milk goals. The visit includes a weighing, some nipple pads
(usually $10) and a nipple shield (usually $15).
Because my sister-in-law swears these coconut oil, cranberry oatmeal cookies made her pump gallons. In my case, I see results, but mostly in my hips.
reading "Mother Food" my mom goes nuts and buys $200 worth of dates, figs, walnuts,
almonds, molasses, barley, ginger, flax oil, and luckily, champagne! I eat like
a queen, but still pump like a miser.
Tincture, 3 Bottles
women swear by this stuff, I found it didn't make that much of a difference,
save increasing my water intake to wash the taste out of my mouth. Ugh.
$15 Lactation Cookie Ingredients
my sister-in-law swears these coconut oil, cranberry oatmeal cookies made her
pump gallons. In my case, I see results, but mostly in my hips.
$20 Co-pay for Psychological Services
Breastfeeding is seriously stressful, and between the lack of
sleep and private time, I am starting to feel stressed and depressed. My
psychologist reassures me it's normal, and we enjoy small talk while my breasts
take a small baby break.
Hugo's latch is improving, but my
production still sucks, and I am plagued by clogged ducts. My nurse recommends
Sunflower Lecithin to make my milk smoother.
$30 Sunflower Lecithin, 3 Bottles
This stuff is amazing! My clogged ducts disappear and never
come back, saving me from spending money on doctor's appointments and
antibiotics for mastitis, which has been described to me as the most painful
thing you can imagine. Keep in mind, this description comes from moms who have
just given birth. I take it religiously! Most women I know end up getting mastitis
at least once, and it sets them back at least $50 in doctor's visits and medicine.
Bra #3: Hands-free Crossover Pumping Bra
Who has time to do laundry? I
decide to splurge on a second bra because mine is getting a little funky… And
because I seriously cannot remember the last time I washed anything other than
$50 Yellow Croaker, Pig Trotters and Sesame Oil
Chinese friend bragged about how she pumped hundreds of ounces after eating
yellow croaker soup my husband goes on a shopping spree. We eat yellow croaker
with soybeans, pig trotters and lots of veggies sautéed in sesame oil. No increase,
except in the dog's output, as I fed him all my trotters under the table.
your problem is stress…" my mother, the psychologist, suggests. Stress can
inhibit production and let down. Turns out, it helps! I pump more than 4 ounces
for the first time ever.
$300 Dark Beer
Somewhere early in my research I read that dark beer
increases milk and supports let down, so I diligently drank one bottle of
really good dark beer during my late night pumping sessions. Did it really
help? It's hard to say. But with the pressure of breastfeeding this was a
well-deserved treat, and is only slightly more expensive than a biweekly trip
to a psychologist.
$90 Netflix, Hulu, Apple TV for six months
Baby is sleeping better, but I am still trying desperately to
be 100% mother's milk. I stay up late and get up at night to pump, and consume
an insane amount of television.
$100 Lactation Consultant Visit #3
Still no huge increase. My LC
suggests lactation tea, as well as Domperidone or Reglan and APNO—All Purpose
Nipple Cream. I call my doctor and get some prescriptions. She also suggests
renting a hospital grade pump to increase my supply further…
Lactation Tea for 5 months (at four cups a day)
This stuff is not all that great, but it helps with water
intake and is more appealing than pig trotter soup…
Purpose Nipple Ointment
This stuff is amazing and works
ten times better than lanolin or the other nipple balms. I immediately see if I
can get another bottle at $20 while I still have insurance! Without, it costs
FINALLY an increase! I am
thrilled. Except when I read about how it inhibits weight loss in some women.
Oh well! Baby comes first!
$115 Hospital-Grade Pump ($75 per month, plus $45
A lifelong high achiever, I immediately start power pumping:
five minutes on, five minutes off. The
novelty of this high-tech gadget wears off quickly. Turns out, even with the
best tools constant pumping is still a pain in the boobs.
The mental, physical and financial costs of breastfeeding haven't dissuaded me from nursing, but they did make me more compassionate, towards moms who choose to stay home, those who go back to work, those who decide not to nurse, and perhaps most importantly, myself.
$100 Lactation Consultant Visit #4
Alright! We are on the up and up! Baby
is gaining, he's almost off supplemental formula, and by getting up several
times while baby sleeps I am pumping enough to feed him during the day. Sleep
be damned! The LC suggests several supplements that may help further boost my
$80 Alfalfa Tablets, Goat's Rue Tea and Black Seed
about Alfalfa, but when my dad chimes in that that's what Germans now feed the
cows on the milk farm I am sold! The Goat's Rue tea is even worse than the nursing
tea, but I see just enough results to keep at it. Black Seed, which is said to
increase mammary tissue, did help a little… at least enough to warrant a second
$75 Freemie Breast Pump
Now, this is a game changer! After
one too many awkward encounters of people walking in to see Baby while I was
pumping I decided to splurge on Freemies, a pump attachment that can be worn
under your shirt. I love it, and start entertaining friends during dinner
parties while pumping. You know how they say that happy cows make milk? Turns
out it's true of humans, too!
$40 Baby Scale
is getting there, and going to the hospital for weigh-ins is starting to weigh
on me. A cheap scale from China set us back $40, but doubled as a cute photo
My goodness. Oatmeal is supposed to be cheap, isn't it? Not
if you eat it in bulk. Moms keep on swearing by it, and frankly, it's cheaper
and less annoying than taking all those supplements. No change, but at this
point, I have no idea what's helping what anyways.
After months of staying up at night to pump, I've started to
dream that I am a cow… Perhaps it's time to relax a little. After finally
sleeping more than six hours a few nights in a row my supply shoots through the
roof. Perhaps that was what was missing all along?
cost of nursing for six months: over $2,000
After six months I made a decided effort to stop trying so
hard to breastfeed. My LO was already happily munching on solids, and is
perfectly content to snack on the boob. I no longer feel like his life depends
on me. Overall, nursing cost me over $2,000, three times the cost of formula
Before I ever had my baby, I met an expectant mom in baby
class who, when asked whether or not she would nurse, stated without hesitation
or shame: "No! I tried it before and it didn't work." I thought she was crazy. Six
months into my own breastfeeding journey I could totally see where she was
coming from, and also had to admit to the fact that I allowed breastfeeding to
make me crazy.
So, will I nurse my next baby? If my body permits it,
absolutely! The mental, physical and financial costs of breastfeeding haven't
dissuaded me from nursing, but they did make me more compassionate, towards
moms who choose to stay home, those who go back to work, those who decide not
to nurse, and perhaps most importantly, myself. I may not be the lean mean nursing
machine I had imagined, but anyone who can create life and take care of the
most helpless creature on the planet deserves nothing but respect.