Busting The Myth: Breastfeeding is Not Free

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Updated on Tuesday, February 17, 2015

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It’s time to unearth the long-held belief that breastfeeding is free. I hear this time and time again, and it’s just not true. If you are pregnant and creating a budget, do not put “$0” next to the “Feeding My Baby” category if you plan on breastfeeding. There are many costs associated with breastfeeding, and it’s important to be aware of them.

Breastfeeding is definitely less expensive than formula feeding. I know from personal experience because I’ve done both. I breastfed my twins for almost five months and then I switched them to 100% formula. They are almost 11 months old now, and the last few months were definitely more expensive than the first few. However, I still incurred costs while breastfeeding. Many mothers do. The reason is that there are so many products out there today that exist to help new mothers ease discomfort and make the experience better. Here are a few examples:

1. Nursing Tanks

I lived in nursing tanks for those five months, and when I was finished breastfeeding, I packaged them up and sent them to my sister so she didn’t have to incur the cost. I bought inexpensive nursing tanks for around $15-$20 at Target. By the time I was finished I had five of them. Breastfeeding can get a little messy, and you’re constantly changing your clothes because as a new mom, you just run around smelling like spit up and breast milk. Yes, it’s beautiful let me tell you. Having five of these shirts was helpful because I could do laundry less frequently. It was a pain to get caught wearing anything else! Sure you can breastfeed without them, but it’s easier with them.

2. Breastfeeding Pillow

When your babies are really small, it helps to have a breastfeeding pillow. I had one that was made especially for twins so that I could place one baby on each side of me. These pillows can cost up to $50.00. You can use the pillows from your bed and prop them all around, but for me, they didn’t work quite as well. I tried everything I could before succumbing to using the twin breastfeeding pillow. Once your babies get bigger and you get more comfortable with breastfeeding, you can sort of prop them up any way that works, but in those early days, it helps to have a specific breastfeeding pillow to make your life easier. 

3. Breast Pump

Many breastfeeding mothers purchase breast pumps so that they can make extra milk and store it in their freezer. Many insurance policies now provide these, but since I had an international health insurance policy at the time, it did not cover it. I purchased a high-end breast pump that retails at $400.00. I could have purchased a cheap handheld one, but another twin mom encouraged me to get the best one. With twins, milk is even more sacred because you’re feeding two babies at once, and I wanted a breast pump that worked extremely well. Not everyone has to go this route. Some moms never pump at all. It really is a personal choice but for me, this was a big expense.

4. Pain Relief

I never really thought that I would have to talk about nipple shields in my blogging career, but here we are. There are a lot of different products that mothers use to ease the discomfort in early breastfeeding days. There are nipple shields, as mentioned, which can run around $10.00 a piece. I used a really nice, organic cream that worked extremely well but was very expensive at $15 for a small jar. There is also cream to help with stretch marks since your body changes a lot when you breastfeed. Really, there’s a product for just about everything for those early days.

Many people might also have to pay to visit their physician if they get a clogged duct or get an infection, which is all very common. This takes time and often requires a co-pay as well. Essentially, it can cost time and money to manage breastfeeding pain. Not every mother has pain, but if you do, it’s good to take the steps to remedy it. I personally did just about anything I could to make sure that I stuck with breastfeeding as long as possible, but I always asked a lot of questions and got a lot of support when I needed it.

5. Lactation Consultants

I was in the hospital for longer than most moms, so I was able to use the services of several in-house lactation consultants. However, when I moved to a different state, and I wanted some advice, I called a private lactation consultant who helped me immensely.

She took the time to speak with me on the phone for about an hour to answer some questions. She was so encouraging. She offered to come to my home and physically help me with any issues I was having. Her fee was $100 for an hour visit. I did not take her up on it, mostly because her phone call was all I needed to push me along to keep trying, but if I needed to, I would have taken her up on the offer.

Again, many insurance companies do include the services of lactation consultants, so you’ll want to check with your individual policy. If they don’t or if you like one in particular who is private, you will have to pay out of pocket for their help.

It May Be Cheaper, But Breastfeeding Isn’t Free

As evidenced, breastfeeding is quite a journey, and there are a huge variety of experiences from mothers who had zero issues to moms who really have to fight through the first few months to get it just right. Regardless of your experience, you will incur some costs along the way whether through clothing, products, equipment, or medical help. It is cheaper than formula feeding, but it is by no means free.

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