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There are definitely many opinions to breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, but that's a discussion for a parenting site. I want to look at the costs associated with each of the feed options. Each family has to decide what will work best for them. I'd like to share tips on keeping costs down for whichever method you choose. Hopefully parents who have already gone through the process will share their advice and experience.

Breastfeeding Costs

A huge advantage of breastfeeding your child from a financial standpoint is that the food is relatively free (moms have to feed themselves well).

Breastfeeding Supplies

While breastfeeding is the cheapest option, it doesn't always means it's free. Depending on what you choose, there are some additional expenses you can have.

  • Breastpump – $65-$275
  • Boppy Pillow – $35
  • Nursing Bras – $15 – $30
  • Nursing Pads – $10 (60pk)
  • Nipple ointment – $10
  • Nursing Bottles (set) – $30 -$45
  • Disposable bottle liners (100)-$10

As you can see, there is a lot of wiggle room with breastfeeding supplies. Not every mom wants to or needs to buy a breast pump. Some moms just exclusively breastfeed while others use bottles with expressed milk. You have to look at your lifestyle and see what is practical for your family.

How many of you just breastfeed and how many of you use a breast-pump to help with feeding? Which breast-pump do you use? We're still debating which one to get. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Formula Costs

There are 3 types of baby formula that you can choose from:

  • Ready-to-use formula
  • Liquid concentrate formula
  • Powdered formula

Each of these have their own benefits. From what I've read and seen, powered formula is the most popular and cheapest option.

Formula Supplies

Here are some supplies associated with formula feeding.

  • Baby Formula Supply -$25-$40/can
  • Bottles (set) – $30-$45
  • Disposable bottle liners (100 ct) – $10

The biggest expense with formula feeding is the recurring expense of the formula. Using sites like Baby Cheapskate and Amazon Mom can be helpful in keeping costs manageable.

Of course, the big debate with formula feeding is which formula to use. Brand name versus store brands can have a huge difference in price. As with diapers, one way you can save is to go ahead and sign up with the formula companies to occasionally receive discounts ( Enfamil,Similac,and Nestle). Don't be afraid to ask your pediatrician for samples. You can see what works best for your family.

Should you avoid store brands or are name brands a rip off? I checked online with the Mayo Clinic to get some answers:

All infant formulas sold in the United States must meet the nutrient standards set by the FDA. Although manufacturers may vary in their formula recipes, the FDA requires that all formulas contain the minimum recommended amount — and no more than the maximum amount — of nutrients that infants need.

Parents also have to weigh the benefits of the different bottles that are out there. What brands do you use for your baby?

Thoughts on Breastfeeding Versus Formula

I'm definitely calling on all you parenting experts 🙂 What feeding route did you decide to take with your family? What were some of the benefits and difficulties that you've faced with feeding? How did you overcome them? What sites did you use to get the best deals on your feeding supplies?

Join In the Baby Expenses Series

Are you a parent or a parent to be with some helpful advice or stories? Please go ahead and join in on the Baby Expense Series, there are 4 ways you can be a part of it:

  1. Leave your tips in the comment section. I  love reviewing thoughtful comments from readers. Some topics have several ‘right’ answers and I think sharing different view points can be helpful.
  2. Submit your stories for future posts. As you know, baby and expenses can cover a variety of topics. If you have a short story or some tips you want to share, please submit them. If you’re a blogger, please share your site’s address with the email so I can credit you if you want.
  3. Write a blog post about your experience. Please include a link in your bio for your site and if you have a relevant post on your site, please link to it in your post.
  4. Share you favorite posts with friends. If you have a favorite post, please share them with your friends who are expecting. I’ve included share buttons for Facebook and Twitter to make it easier and you can always email them your favorite posts as well. If you think it’s a great for them, please encourage your friends to sign up and receive updates through RSS or directly to their inbox. It’s free and an easy way for them to keep up with the latest posts on Couple Money.

Photo Credit: pfly

About Elle Martinez

Elle Martinez helps families at Couple Money achieve financial freedom by sharing tips for reducing debt, increase income, and building net worth. Learn how to live on one income and have fun with the second..

26 comments add your comment

  1. My wife would suggest to splurge on a high quality pump to save you time and aggravation. The cheap pumps just don’t cut it.

    • Thanks Echo – I was surprised at the range for breast-pumps and wanted to get some real life feedback before making a sizable purchase.

  2. I don’t think this analysis can be complete without some long term study research into the overall health of children who are breast fed vs those who are not. Everything we read indicates that breast feeding will be more beneficial for lil’ SPF so that is the route we’ll take.

    • I agree. There actually have been studies on this and breast feeding is the way to go. Breast fed babies have better immune systems, less allergies, and a reduced risk of developing cancer. I know this because I am a health professional by trade. Breast feeding is definitely worth the financial investment.

  3. The biggest cost is health. What are the effects of natural versus formula? I honestly don’t think you can look at this decision as a matter of cost of supplies or a matter of convenience.

    We have a number of friends who, for different reasons, went the formula route. I kid you not, they all had issues with their kids being picky about the formula or having stomach issues with it at some point. I know it doesn’t happen to everyone but we haven’t had any feeding issues with breast-fed babies.

    As for pumps, you can rent a pump. If you can find a friend that’s willing to give you theirs or sell it to you then that’s on option too. The good ones are pretty sturdy and you may only need to replace a few parts

  4. As for pumps, the best thing to do is to rent one first. You don’t want to buy the most expensive one from the get-go, only to have breast feeding not work out, and you’ll know better within 6 weeks what kind of pump you’ll need. For the stay at home mom, sometimes the cheap hand held kind is sufficient. For working moms, the deluxe ones are generally better.

    Yes, breast feeding is less expensive, but it doesn’t always work out. And often the kids who have stomach issues with formula ALSO have stomach issues with breast feeding. My son cried all day long when we we breast fed, and we tried everything to make it work, but it wasn’t until we switched to soy formula that he finally turned into a happy baby. You just have to do what works for you and your family.

  5. For me, cost wasn’t even a factor when I chose to breast feed both my kids, but it was a nice benefit of my decision. I breast fed for the health of my kids and I nursed them both until they were 2. If you are interested in nursing, I would suggest you start reading about it immediately and look into local La Leche League chapters in your area. I started going to meetings when I was pregnant with my first. It is not easy for everyone in the beginning. Both you and the baby could have challenges and La Leche helped me through those challenges and as I said I ended up nursing extensively. A helpful book is, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.

    Also with nursing, makes night time a little easier because you are not making bottles. But all of the work will end up on you at night, because there isn’t much your hubby can do.

    A friend gave me her pump and it was helpful. You can also find them on ebay, yard sales, consignment stores.

    I’m not an expert, but if you have any questions about nursing, please email me. It was a wonderful experience and I don’t regret a single second of it.

  6. I agree with the posters who argued for the health benefits of breast-feeding. My son wouldnt breast feed so we had to feed him formula. The first year was utter hell. I swore I would never formula feed again, my next 3 were all breast fed without any problems. As for babies on formula ALSO having problems with breast-feeding, that comes down to the mothers diet. The mothers diet has a HUGE impact on how the baby will do with breastfeeding. A lot of times simply cutting dairy or spicy foods from the mothers diet will fix any breastfeeding problems.

    As for the cost, I had a breastfeeding pillow given to e from a friend, and bought 3 nursing bras for $15/piece. A tube of $10 Lansinoh & I was good to go. 🙂

  7. If you do get a breast pump, don’t bother with the cheapie models. We burned out 2 of them in 6 weeks before investing in a good one that lasted for 2 kids, then got sold with a new hygiene kit.

    Not only did it save us money, long-term, but it cut the pumping time from 45 minutes to 15.

  8. I have found that the breastfeeding vs Formula discussion goes much much deeper then just cost and just mentioning one versus the other raises as much emotions as SAHM vs Working Mothers

    • @Evan: I thought about the emotional reaction with breastfeeding vs bottle feeding. In the end, I decided that getting the feedback is invaluable. My assumption is that parents make the decision to breastfeed or bottle feed based on the family’s situation.

      However finances are a factor that they have to deal with. Our goal is to breastfeed, but we still wanted to go ahead and look at the costs of both options to prepare the baby fund.

  9. I am a FTM-to-be, so what info I have, I’ve gotten from others.

    Everyone who I talked to recommended the Medela pump.

    It’s been strongly advised to me not to buy a used pump or to borrow one because of possible contamination issues. Hospitals rent them, and those are sanitized properly.

    My SIL’s baby was *very* unhappy (breastfed) but it turned out that she had allergies to things that SIL was eating. Once SIL adjusted her diet, baby was happy with the breast milk. A similar thing happened to a friend of a friend.

    I’m planning to breast feed because of the nutritional benefits (which are greatest in the first 12 weeks). Cost savings is a perk. I feed myself well anyway, so that is not an expense.

    Powdered formula has the lowest levels of BPA, so if we HAVE to use formula, that’s the way we’ll go. AFAIK, there are not any formulas that are BPA-free (because of the packaging).

  10. Breastfeeding has made all the difference in the world. My son self weaned around 18 months and my daughter is nursing at 8 months with no end in sight. I find it convenient, cheap, I get more sleep and I’m connected to my children in a way I cherish.

    As for pumps- evaluate how often you will be away from the baby. I was working 12 hour shifts 3-4 days/week when my first child was nursing so I needed a double electric Medela to get the job done. And a hands free nursing bra (google it, well worth the cost). For my daughter I’m around a lot more and I find a manual single pump is totally sufficient to pump the occasional missed feeding. I still use the heavy duty pump sometimes, but only because it’s there.

    There’s a certain bond that breastfeeding has formed for my family. If you are having any problems at the beginning be sure to see a lactation consultant. My insurance covered her fee, and the pump, so be sure to explore your options.

    I’d love to guest write for you sometime, especially while you are enjoying your new family member!

  11. My wife breast fed all 6 of our kids for anywhere from about 5 to 9 months. I will also say that cost was not a factor in the decision as much as health benefits. One expense that you should include in the breast feeding is pads to keep your clothing dry during the day. It seems like I was constantly having to go and buy boxes of those things.

  12. I agree with the posters who mentioned health benefits of nursing when factoring cost of formula vs. breast feeding. I breast fed my first child because we didn’t have money for formula, much less disposable diapers. I owned a borrowed manual pump and 3 regular bottles which had to be washed by hand. My mom bought me 3 nursing bras. No boppy, no bottle sterilizer, no lactation coach, no nipple ointment, but plenty of one-on-one time with my baby that cannot be replaced or duplicated after this time period is gone. She has had no health problems (she is currently 29) and way fewer minor colds/flus as a child.

    My 2nd child I breast fed for 3 months but had to stop when I had to go back on my arthritis medication. This daughter had far more childhood illnesses and continues to have various health problems (which may or may not be a result) to this day. Fortunately we were better off financially for this child, but I don’t even like to think about how much more money we spent on her for everything from formula, disposable diapers, clothes, and various and sundry baby gadgets. *shudder*

    When working on a list of “necessary” breast feeding supplies, try to remember that umpteen millions of women have breast fed their babies EXCLUSIVELY for thousands of years without any of the things on your list. (Of course, most of those women lived in a society where they didn’t have to work away from their babies so nursing was a lot more convenient.)

    The bottom line is that, just because they sell it, doesn’t mean you “need” it. It is too easy to get wrapped up in all the shiny, new, fancy baby supplies on the market today without considering whether or not something is truly “needed” vs. merely a convenience for mommy and daddy that may be totally disregarded and/or rejected by Junior. Before you buy something, ask yourself this: did great-great grandma Agatha have one when she was raising 8 kids in a walk-up flat in the city or a tiny sod house on the prairie? Of course not. And her kids all turned out fine anyway. (Ok, except for great-uncle Frank who ran off with that floozy and got himself killed over a card game. But I’m pretty sure that had nothing to do with his mother’s choice of infant nutrition.)

    It doesn’t matter whether you breast feed or formula feed, the most important thing is to be there for your kids and love them unconditionally. Everything else is just fluff.

  13. This topic certainly got a lot of comments. Both of my sons were breastfed before switching to formula when I went back to work. (These were the days before breast pumps were common or accepted in the workplace.) My grandson was breastfed exlusively until he went to milk at age 18 months.

    I think it’s the best choice for your wallet and the baby’s health.

  14. i formula fed. i’m glad i did. i tried to breastfeed and i absolutely hated it. i figured if i was uncomfortable, my daughter would be uncomfortable and it would just be an upleasant experience all around. so, i went with formula. i feel no guilt about it whatsoever, my daughter is perfectly healthy and extremely intelligent, as are all of the formula fed babies that i know.

    this conversation touches a huge nerve for me because i feel that there are a lot of judgments that occur. in my opinion, everyone needs to do what’s best for her and her baby and that choice needs to be respected. i don’t care if you chose to breastfeed; why should you care that i chose to use formula?

  15. I agree with all the comments to consider the health benefits before cost. However, as someone else pointed out, nursing doesn’t work out for everyone. I cried the first time I gave my daughter formula because I had convinced myself that “success” was nursing, but the lactation consultant educated me about why nursing wasn’t working for us (my children were tongue-tied; my son eventually needed surgery to correct his condition, though my daughter only needed a “clip” in the doctor’s office – this results in the child having difficulty latching which in turn means the child isn’t getting enough milk and your body isn’t stimulated properly to produce enough milk). So I pumped and pumped and pumped. I strongly recommend renting a hospital pump if you are going to do any amount of pumping. It pumps faster and does a better job of stimulating milk production. And it is possible that your health insurance will cover some of the costs of the rental. I also strongly encourage the use of a lactation consultant if you do make the decision to breastfeed as they are an invaluable source of information and support.

  16. I am one of those for whom breastfeeding was not easy and definitely not less expensive, and I wrote about it a few months back.

    For my family, breastfeeding did not come easily or inexpensively. My supply was low with both of my kids and I spent well over $1,000 for each baby in an attempt to breastfeed, with visits to lactation consultants, renting a hospital grade pump (in addition to purchasing a pump for home), expensive supplements that were supposed to increase supply, a supplemental nursing system (little tube taped to the breast to deliver milk while the baby tries to nurse), nipple shields to get the latch right, nursing bras, etc. I still needed bottles and all the stuff accompanying bottles because I had to pump to increase my supply and had to have a way of getting that milk into the baby. It was most definitely NOT cheap!! I was a full time stay-at-home-mom with both babies and had a lot of support from friends, family, and a patient lactation consultant, and I didn’t have to do all of this while trying to hold a job outside the house. I still wasn’t able to make breastfeeding work for my babies.

    I felt like I would be a failure if I couldn’t be his sole source of nutrition. My husband gave me permission to quit, permission that I struggled to give myself, saying, “The first rule of babies is feed the baby. It doesn’t make you a bad mom to feed the baby, even if you’re feeding him formula.”

    If we have another baby, I won’t nurse. For me and my family, it is just too difficult, too expensive, too time consuming, and my supply is too low despite all efforts. Given my history, it would save a lot of money, time, and tears (both baby’s and mine) to go with formula from the start.

  17. Take in all the information now, but listen to your own gut instinct in the end. Remember breastfeeding has wonderful benefits, but that doesn’t mean that every woman has been made to be successful at it – this why the job of “wet nurse” was created in the centuries before formula and I’m sure in centuries previous there were debates of biological mother breastfeeding vs. wet nurses just like breastfeeding vs. formula today.

    You won’t know what works for certain until the baby arrives. Personally, I choose to bottle feeding before my son arrived knowing that I would have to return to work very quickly after his birth (only 2 months off for me). I was also listening to my gut saying that there was a reason I was not feeling the urge to breastfeed this turned out to be true as I had to have an emergency c-section (after being told I could count on a routine and easy birth… ha!) and didn’t even have the strength to hold my baby until almost 12 hours after his birth let alone feed him and wouldn’t have wanted to breastfeed him with all the drugs and meds running through my system and it takes a while for those things to work its way out of your system . Plus my milk never really came in anyways, not even a leak and only one night of engorgement almost a week and half later that last about 12 hours. He’s thrived on formula and has had no adverse reaction or sensitivities (we’ve used the first formula we tried from the beginning and the first bottle we tried, all were a great success) and hasn’t even run a fever yet let alone shown any immunity problems and he’s a happy, healthy 5 month old who’s almost 19 lbs! In fact I was a formula feed baby (28 years ago) and developed an amazing immune system.

    The most important thing in this decision is to do what’s best for you and your child and that is something to keep in mind throughout pregnancy and birth – having a plan and ideals of how you want things to go should always take a backseat when it comes to delivering and raising a happy, healthy child. Plus babies are more alert to your moods and stress levels than you can imagine – making choices that keep you happy and calm will have a similar effect on the baby.

  18. I think new parents should start with a minimum of supplies before the baby is born. With my first, I bought some nice nursing bras before the baby was born. I almost bought a breast pump. The deluxe nursing bras are my least favorite, even now while I am nursing the second. I use the target bras first. Since I had difficulty breastfeeding, they gave me a breastpump at the hospital. So I didn’t end up needing to buy one. While I did pay something for the pump, it was covered by insurance. The nipple creams never worked for me. People gave me a lot of other pumping materials. I did end up having to buy all sorts of bottles until finding the ones that worked best for my baby. Even though it is nice to feel prepared, you can’t really be prepared for feeding your baby beforehand. So don’t spend a lot of money on feeding supplies until the baby comes.

  19. I am currently breastfeeding and it seems to be a lot cheaper for me…especially since I have a pump that my sister and sister-in law both used! We got an expensive Medela double electric pump which is much easier and faster!!!! It was on the expensive side, but if you can go in on it or get it used that would be great!!!! In fact I was given all the pieces to the pump at the hospital for FREE!! You can buy your own pieces for about $50 at babies r us!