Monday, January 30, 2012

Feeding your infant: equipment costs

As someone who works a significant amount of time in labor and delivery, I see multiple mothers a day who struggle with the question of breastfeeding versus formula feeding. There are many blogs and articles dedicated to this debate. I intend on focusing on the price of your feeding choice - both in equipment and in opportunity costs.

Today's article is to discuss the actual cost of the equipment most people need to formula or breast feed and about how much time it will take up.  Rather than just repeat various prices, I'll discuss a few hypothetical scenarios and use a few assumptions in my calculations. 

Assumption #1: For simplicity's sake, I will assume it take 20 minutes to bottle feed or breast feed a baby and that it takes an additional 20 minutes pump then bottle feed your child breastmilk. I'll assume you feed the baby 7 times a day.

Assumption #2: Some cost are acknowledged but are considered 0 sum. The additional food you eat to breast feed is negligible (around 500 calories). Equally, I assume you purchase bottles for your infant regardless of your formula or breast milk use.  The additional water and electricity use for the additional infant differences is also negligible.

Assumption #3: Because you are reading this blog about frugality, you are buying the Walmart generic  economy size formula 36 ounces which makes 264 ounces per can for 18 dollars.  That is equal to about $0.07 per ounce.

Assumption #4: If you are going to freeze milk to store for later use, you already own a freezer, and its electricity use is stable. While you can use numerous different containers to store milk, I'll base my calculations on using 6 ounce breastmilk storage bags which are $10 for 50 bags. (Other containers are less reliable and less than ideal due to the relative amounts you need to thaw at a time.) Thus one set of full breastmilk bags will be 300 ounces at $0.03 per ounce.

Assumption #5: You deliver in a hospital and they supply you with a hand pump and a few bottles and nipples for free as part of your hospital stay.  All other supplies will be included in additional calculations. Disposable breast pads are $10 for 60, and we'll assume you use one a day. I know there are more reusable options available, but they are more expensive in the short term and don't always suit everyone.

Assumption #6: Feeding numbers. As an estimate, assume your child takes 42 ounces a day for the first 12 months of life. This is to average out the relative growth of your child which will vary with each child and their age and will equally affect both formula and breastfeeding . (If you are wondering, I assumed a 14 lb child drinking 6 ounces 7 times a day. I used the weight gain/fluid calculators hospitals use for growth).

Scenario #1: breastfeeding full time for 6 months, formula for 6 months
This mom is meeting the goal of 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding
6 month supply of disposable breastpads: $30
3 nursing bras $17 x 3 = $51
Formula needed for 6 months: $530 dollars
(42 ounce x 6 months x 30 days = 7560 ounces)
Hours spent feeding baby for 1 year=840 hours
    Total: $530 for 840 hours

Scenario #2: breastfeeding full time for 12 months
This mom is the 'ideal'
Hand pump provided by hospital: free
12 month supply of disposable breast pads: $60
3 nursing bras $17 x 3 = $51
Hours spent feeding baby for 1 year = 840 hours
    Total: $111 for 840 hours

Scenario #3: breastfeeding full time for 6 months, returning to work at 2 months
This is your typical mom trying to meet the goal and returning to work
6 month supply of disposable breast pads: $30
3 nursing bras $17 x 3 = $51
Medela twin breast pump with AC adaptor: $250
Formula needed for 6 months: $530 dollars
Hours spent feeding the baby for 1 year (includes pump sessons):920 hours
    Total: $861 for 920 hours

Scenario #4: breastfeeding via pump for 6 months, storing 2 additional months

This is the mom whose baby never latches but is determined to do it
6 month supply of disposable breast pads: $30
3 nursing bras $17 x 3 = $51
Medela twin breast pump with AC adaptor: $250
Formula needed for 4 months: $353
Storage bags 420 bags for 2520 oz: $84
Hours spent feeding baby for 1 year (includes pump sessions): 1120 hours
    Total: $768 for 1120 hours

Scenario #5: formula feeding 12 months
This is the mom who never breastfeeds
Formula needed for 12 months: $1030
Hours spent feeding baby for 1 year: 840 hours
    Total: $1030 for 840 hours

Scenario #6: breastfeeding for 8 months with pumping 7 times a week for 5 oz/day, which would use 240 bags, and buying the most expensive products possible. 
This is the mom that spends top dollar for everything and can really spend money. (I used the Babies R Us website for pricing information)
5 high end nursing bras 5 x $40:
Medela freestyle double pump: $370
Medela bottle system/feeding set: $30
Nursing pads for 8 months: $40
Balboa nursing pillow: $46
Medela quick clean bags 240 uses 5 x $15:
Pump and go bags (50 bags) 5 x $15: $75
Organic nursing cover by BeBe: $50
Similac organic formula x 4 months (at $28/170 oz): $831
Hours spent feeding baby for 1 year (includes pumping): 920 hours
    Total:  $1392 for 920 hours

I did not include these other costs, but I wanted to mention the other items I located on Babies R Us website: Milk screen testing ($25 for 20 tests) to screen your milk in case you have been drinking, UV sensitive nursing bracelet ($20) that you can wear instead of a watch to keep track of your nursing (not sure why anyone needs that), and a bottle warmer/cooler/sterilizer ranging $70-$130.  There were so many more random products out there like 'night time formula.'

(In case you were wondering, despite claims, almost all formulas have almost the same added ingredients and vitamin content. The minor differences are all marketing gimmicks. This includes newborn versus 'step 1' and so forth. 'Sensitive/gentalease/early shield/immune shield' are not proven to bear out scientifically either. Soy formula should never be fed to premature babies and babies should not be on specialty formulas like Alimentum unless it has been prescribed by your doctor. I promise to discuss formula in another post. )

As you can see, I tried to hit the low, middle, and extremes of breastfeeding. Mothers end up in different scenarios and their expenses reflect those situations. You cannot just assume that breastfeeding is 'cheaper' because if you may need a pump, which includes accessories and time hassle, it may not be - or your choices will make it so. There are ways to decrease this cost - renting a hospital pump, buying/borrowing a used pump, using the same pump for multiple children, and so forth.

Food for the thought . . .

Next post: Why don't you cut 'x' out of your budget?


  1. Breastfeeding is still best for babies. What you have there is simply a breast pump. It helps get excessive milk from the breast that can cause pain to lactating mothers. By the way, this is a nice review!

  2. Thank you for commenting. Sine I was discussing the costs of breastfeeding, I did put the exclusive breastfeeding mom on there and let the hypothetical mom just buy some bras and nursing pads.