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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

How much does breastfeeding really save?

By Kate Supino

New parents are often staggered by the number of expenses that arise over providing for a baby. Before the baby is even born, credit cards have been maxed out, and the nursery is filled with teddy bears, double strollers, baby hangers for baby clothes, and baby "grooming" supplies like powder, lotion, and Q-tips.

Increasingly, parents are considering breastfeeding as a means to reduce the cost of feeding their baby. So how much does breastfeeding really save? 

Trying to calculate the actual cost of formula versus the savings of breastfeeding is difficult to impossible. Babies don't all eat (or in this case, drink) the same amount, the price and brands of formula are highly variable, and there are hidden monetary and non-monetary costs involved in both methods.

Costs associated with formula-feeding include:

  • Actual formula
  • Fuel to shop for formula
  • Time to shop for formula
  • Bottles for formula
(By the way, if you think there is no added time or expense in shopping for formula, you are mistaken. You run out of formula just like you run out of milk, toilet paper, and diapers, and probably more often than that. You would definitely be making separate formula runs.) 

Breastfeeding a baby is free
Even the look of baby formula is unappealing

Short-term benefits of breastfeeding

  • Infants who are breastfeed are a third less likely to perish from sudden infant death syndrome.
  • Mothers and babies bond during breastfeeding.
  • No cost to buy formula.
  • Fewer bottles needed (some bottles are still needed for times when you're not around to feed).
  • No "running out" (limitless supply, relatively speaking).

Long-term benefits of breastfeeding

  • The American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusively breastfeeding for at least the first six months of life. After that, the introduction of solids would complement continued breastfeeding for up 12 months of age, as long as it's mutually comfortable. The availability of sufficient amounts of breast milk to ensure optimal nutritional levels must also be considered.
  • Breastfeeding has been shown to provide nutrients that are not replicated in commercial baby formula.
  • Adult onset diabetes is reduced by up to 30% in individuals who were breastfed.
  • The incidence of childhood illnesses requiring physician treatment such as earaches, asthma, and other respiratory conditions, skin irritations like eczema and dermatitis, and general malaise is reduced significantly.
  • High adolescent and adult intelligence quotients have been linked to early breastfeeding.
How babies are fed after birth affects their interest in breastfeeding
Medical bills for sick infant care can be shockingly high.
When you have your baby in a hospital, be sure you let the nurses know that you intend to breastfeed. Otherwise the nurses will bottle-feed your infant, and you might have trouble getting your new baby to latch on.

It's been estimated that 75 percent or more of newborns instinctively attempt to breastfeed. If your baby is one of the remaining 25%, don't be discouraged. Your nurse will be able to teach you a few tricks that will nudge your baby in the right direction.

There are an overwhelming number of benefits to breastfeeding. For assistance with breastfeeding issues, or if you have additional questions, both the La Leche League and the World Health Organization are valuable resources.

About the author: Kate Supino is a professional freelance writer, small business owner, and mother. Through her writing, she advises businesses and individuals regarding budgeting and smart money moves.

* Image licenses: 1.  Media shower, licensed with attribution; 2. Media Shower, licensed with attribution.