The Real Cost of Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is going well still. I think we’ve found our groove. And of course, once we found it, it became time to start weaning off of the nipple shield. That is going okay though. Sometimes she just won’t have anything to do with a breast without a shield, but more and more I’m able to get her to nurse without, and I still hear nice big gulps so I know she’s getting milk.

What I wanted to write about though is something that’s occurred to me this week: breastfeeding is expensive. Which is funny, because it’s supposed to be way more cost effective than formula. I’m not sure that’s actually true.

I’m still glad we’re doing it, because I know it’s good for her and good for me, but I’m just saying I don’t think it’s necessarily been awesome for the pocketbook. I’m going to lay out some expenses for you of what I’ve had to spend so far:

Lactation Consultant Visit: $140

Nursing Pillow: $42.00

Nipple Shields: I got two free, and spent $20.00 on two more.

Medela Replacement Parts Kit (a friend gave me her Pump in Style Advance): $39.00

Medela AC Adaptor (she lost hers): $17.43

Soothies Gel Pads (3 sets): $25.50

Lasinoh Breast Pads (1 box, I’ll have to buy more over the next year): $11.99

Medela Quick Clean Steam Bags (for sanitizing-you do NOT want a dirty pump): $4.99 (good for 100 sterilizations)

Avent Thermal Gel Breast Packs: $7.49

Medela Collection Bottles and Caps, 3 pack: $12.49

Nursing Bras:  Around $300 (I’ll explain more about this one, but yeah, it’s A LOT).

Lasinoh Milk Bags (100 Count-I will obviously need more): $13.75

Medela Milk Bags (50 Count-not buying more of these after I run out of them): $10.39

Trays to store milk bags in the freezer (five at $4.00 each, and I will need more): $20.00

Lasinoh Lanolin: $6.26

Total: $671.29

I feel like I’ve forgotten things, but that’s what I can think of so far.

That’s still a far cry from the $2000 that formula costs per year, but it’s also not nothing. And some of it is certainly optional. I probably could have just dealt with shoving bags of frozen corn in my bra to deal with the soreness instead of getting the specially designed boob ice packs. I could also just boil my medela parts every day instead of using the quick steam bags and spend my entire life in the kitchen cleaning things (which I already feel like I do). I also could use reusable breast pads instead of the disposable ones, but several friends told me to steer clear of that because they don’t lay well under your clothes and the risk of thrush is higher. I hardly use the nursing pillow now but it was invaluable when we were first starting. It kept her right where I needed her and gave me one less thing to juggle while starting out and learning.

And most insurance companies are probably better than mine and pay for a) more than just a manual pump so you don’t have to use your friends hand-me-down electric one and buy replacement parts for it (not that I’m not grateful, don’t get me wrong-she’s a sweetie) and b) the lactation consultant, because at $140 a pop that’s not cheap. I would love to see her again to make sure we’re on the right track but I don’t know that I can justify it.

And let’s talk nursing bras: they suck. Basically if you’re a big breasted gal good luck finding them in store where you could actually try them on. Which is RIDICULOUS, because never in a woman’s life will her breasts be bigger than they are when she’s nursing. Never. Right now I’m measuring around a 40 H. When I was first engorged it was a 42 I. Anyway, I tried to order a few online and they sucked. They just don’t fit me well, they’re obviously cheaply made, and I’m uncomfortable in them. I could only find ONE in an underwire (although I’ve found more since then, again online) and I know they say underwire is bad for nursing, but I’m sorry, I need it y’all. I have GIANT BREASTS. I need some reinforcement.

So what I’ve ended up doing is buying regular bras, Wacoal to be specific (the BEST brand if you’re chesty) and my mother is painstakingly turning them into nursing bras using online tutorials and sheer ingenuity. I hear that Nordstroms does this service for $10.00 a bra, but sadly we don’t have a Nordstroms here. So while she’s working on the three very expensive bras I purchased I’m stuck wearing this one awful bra I found that is uncomfortable and unsupportive. I’ve also got some soft, underwire free ones for sleeping because of the leaky boob situation.

Another unfortunate (or maybe fortunate, just depending on how you see it) situation is that I’m pretty sure this Medela Pump may not make it forever. My friend used it for two babies so it’s not a spring chicken and it’s making a funny knocking noise. I’ve been lusting after the Spectra S1 but had resolved not to buy it because I have a perfectly good pump and, yeah, breastfeeding has sort of been expensive, but now I’m thinking I may need to sooner or later. I don’t want to wait for the Medela to go out on me, because there’s no place I can get the Spectra locally, so I’d have to wait for it to be shipped to me, leaving me pumpless for a few days. But also the idea of spending another $200 on breastfeeding, plus $20 for the flange size I need (because of course the 28’s aren’t included) makes me nauseated.

So yes. Breast is best. I’m glad we’re doing it, but no-it is NOT free. Especially not if you have to go back to work and have to deal with all the accessories that go along with that. This isn’t an indictment of breastfeeding at all. No, it’s really an indictment of our economy and healthcare system that have found yet another way to make it hard on new moms. Honestly if we had better maternity leave I wouldn’t be pumping at all. If I had a year off like everyone else in the world it wouldn’t matter. I wouldn’t need to worry about sending milk to daycare when she goes in eight weeks (yes, I have eight weeks still, but I actually sobbed about it today).

But also, if something has to do with breastfeeding, just go ahead and plan on spending more. Bank on it. Because that’s America.

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31 thoughts on “The Real Cost of Breastfeeding

  1. SO true. It’s ridiculous how much I’ve spent on parts (and wtf with Medela’s annoying problem of milk getting in the tubes, I just had to toss my 2nd in 2 weeks!). Will be getting the S1 Monday and using Freemie with it – hopefully that works because otherwise I’ll need to buy the 28mm flanges too.

  2. You don’t need to boil your pump parts every day! Just wash with hot soapy water. You also don’t have to wash between pumps, just put the parts in a plastic bag and stick it all in the fridge between. I sterilize parts about once a week. Breast milk is much less likely to go “bad” than cows milk.

  3. Technically your insurance company has to cover a lactAtion consultant. You should try to at least submit the charge with a copy of the law. Good luck!!

  4. I think under ideal circumstances it is basically free but how often does that happen. I love that your reason is beyond cost, that’s important.

    I am so glad things are going well.

  5. You accurately called the name of the cause of the biggest expense ~ needing to pump because we as a country do not have reasonable parental leave policies like other first world nations. Remember this when it is time to vote.
    You are such a good and positive mom. I miss the frequency of your post from pre-birth but every time you are able to post you make me smile with appreciation.

  6. AMEN!!!! I have been trying to make this point, too. It is FAR from free to breastfeed in this day and age and people just don’t get that.

  7. Damn, there goes my hope that there was one thing that was cheap when it came to bubs. That is a large amount of money, not that I think you regret any of it, but it is a blow you probably weren’t expecting.

  8. I started out with a second hand Medela which died about 8 weeks in. I bought a replacement pump (different brand but same sort of thing) and oh my god the difference was incredible. Pumping was almost a joy with the new pump. Once I had the new one I was able to see how the second hand one really was on the it’s last legs. Like you needed more incentive to say oh what the heck and buy the other pump 😉

  9. SO TRUE. In so many ways this country is so backwards and behind. I’m really glad you posted this, though, because I have been more than a little concerned about finding a nursing bra, as I was a 38DDD pre-pregnancy and I am currently a 40F at only 17 weeks — so I know finding a nursing bra is going to be interesting to say the least. I never even considered that someone might be able to convert a normal bra into a nursing one!

  10. Oh my goodness, that’s quite the list of expenses. I think so far I’m up to about $150 spent of breast feeding supplies. I haven’t quite ordered my pump yet – but I’m waiting until after delivery because then my insurance will pick up the whole tab! So hopefully that helps cut down on costs. I just can’t believe how much breast feeding costs for something that our bodies make…. Kind crazy huh?! It’s probably one of those things where you HAVE to remind yourself often that boob milk is going to be SO beneficial!!

  11. Ugh bra dilemmas. I feel ya. They told me at a local Mommy store that they will have my size in stock. Only time will tell… I’m normally a G to GG pre-pregnancy. I’m prepared for some gigantic watermelons, but I’m not sure how the lack of an underwire would benefit me either.

    • My mom got 2/3 of mine done and I wore one today. It’s amazing how much better you feel when your boobs are where they need to be! My back is actually sore from carrying them up high for the first time in a month!

  12. Also don’t forget about the time! That is the most costly thing of all! What would you pay to not spend another minute attached to that pump or catering to sore nipples or sterilizing pump equipment?

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