Budgeting for Baby: The Cost of Breastfeeding

Wondering how the cost of breastfeeding compares to formula feeding from a financial perspective? Here's your answer.

You may have heard that there are many great benefits of breastfeeding for both you and your little one. From health and wellness to bonding and more, breast milk feeding is one of the best and most powerful ways that you make an impact on your baby’s life right away! Even still, there is another valuable benefit of breastfeeding that isn’t always as widely explored as the others. Starting a family means a significant financial commitment because babies can be expensive! From frequent but short-term costs like diapers, wipes, and other daily supplies to long-term expenses like child care and saving for college, planning ahead and preparing for the lifestyle changes that a new baby brings is important for your growing family and your budget.

The Cost of Breastfeeding: The Big Picture

As you get ready to welcome a little one into the world and begin anticipating your own breastfeeding journey, you may wonder what the cost of breastfeeding is and how it compares to formula feeding from a financial perspective. First, let’s take a look at the big picture when it comes to breastfeeding cost savings:

  • Babies who are exclusively breast milk fed have significantly lower risks of becoming ill with diarrhea, ear and respiratory infections, and even meningitis. They’re also extra protected against developing allergies, diabetes, asthma, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and becoming obese.
  • In fact, breastfeeding reduces the risks of the 4 most common and costly childhood conditions in the first year of life by at least 50%! This includes ear infections, gastroenteritis, respiratory infections and intestinal infections like necrotizing enterocolitis, which is reduced by an incredible 77% - saving roughly $1.9 billion in healthcare costs. Talk about breastfeeding cost savings!

This is because breast milk is the perfect nutrition for your newborn, filled with all the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients they need to build immunity; develop protection from germs, illnesses, and diseases; and safeguard them from the inside out as they start life.

So, What Does That Mean for Me?

There is no cost to breastfeed, it is free! Accessories like bottles, breast milk storage bags, nursing pillows, breast pumps, and nursing pads all can help make your breastfeeding journey easier and be purchased at a cost, though most of these supplies (including breast pumps) are covered by FSA and can further reduce your out-of-pocket breastfeeding expenses. Powdered infant formula, the least expensive type of formula, can cost nearly $100 or more per month, though special formulas for babies with allergies or feeding issues can easily increase your average monthly price. To put this into perspective, the Surgeon General estimates that families who follow optimal breastfeeding practices can save between $1,200 - $1,500 in expenditures on infant formula in the first year alone.

Even if you opt to purchase a breast pump (though your insurance may provide one to you for free or at a discount!) and a few essential accessories to enhance your breastfeeding experience, these one-time costs are still considerably less than weekly or monthly formula purchases for a year or longer. Additionally, breast milk has everything your little one needs, including many beneficial nutrients that aren’t found in formula. Healthier infants require fewer doctor visits, hospitalizations, and insurance claims, which in turn lowers healthcare costs for you and increases productivity for your employer.  For more information on the Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding, see the official fact sheet for details.

Breastfeeding cost savings are wide-reaching and significantly impact both your family and the U.S. healthcare system as a whole. More importantly, breast milk feeding saves money while creating an irreplaceable lifelong bond between you and your baby.

To learn more about how the cost of breastfeeding impacts healthcare nationwide, check out this infographic for even more information.