Breastfeeding 101: The Value of Breast Milk.

If you’ve been reading along with the Breastfeeding 101 posts, then you know the benefits of breastfeeding when it comes to your own health and the benefits to your child.  These are obviously important factors in your decision to breastfeed.  They have a significant impact both immediately and in the future.  But have you given any thought to the value of breast milk?

Feeding a child throughout their life… do you have any guess as to how much parents will spend to feed their child while the child is living under their roof?  I cannot even imagine what that total is, I just know that with three children in our family, our largest household expense is food.  That’s a lot of money.  When I think of breast milk, from a practical standpoint, I think of the money that it saves during the first year of a child’s life, and possibly longer than that, depending on how long you plan to breastfeed.

My children have never had formula, so I have never actually spent a dime on it.  I don’t know firsthand how much it costs to formula feed.  I did some research though.  When I looked at brand name formula (not the fancy shmancy kind, just basic formula) and then estimated how far one canister would last I found the cost to be staggering!  You can easily spend $75-$80 each week to formula feed your baby.  Multiply that by 4 and that comes to $300-$320 each month.  Multiply that by 12… that’s $3600 for the first year (give or take).  Then you have to take into account the cost of bottles, and all of the other accessories that you might end up buying.  This adds up.  If you can breastfeed for free why wouldn’t you???  You will spend a little bit of money investing in a two or three good nursing bras, nursing tanks, and nursing pads (you can purchase reusable pads), and perhaps a decent breast pump and a few bottles if you plan to be away from your child for some feedings.  These costs related to breast milk are very small in comparison to the cost of formula for one year.

It has also been well documented that breastfed babies get few ear infections and sicknesses, due to the nutritional make up of the breast milk.  As a result, you pay less in medical costs during that first year.  Not only that, but working parents of breastfed babies will miss fewer days of work when their babies are healthier.  Fewer copays, fewer prescriptions filled, fewer days of lost pay equals more money in your wallet!  If you took the $3600 that you might spend on formula in that first year and invested it in a good growth stock mutual fund, you could double the amount in 12 years to $7,200, or quadruple it in 24 years to $14,400.

The value of breast milk is far reaching and very significant.  When the health benefits and the economic benefits are seen together (and there are more than what I have listed here), it’s easy to see that forgoing formula for breast milk is the logical choice.  Even if a mother can breastfeed for 4-6 months she is helping her baby and her family in so many ways.