Inspired by this boards thread, the Bees share what breastfeeding and pumping supplies cost them in this edition of the Swarm.
As with many of the other Bees, we found that breastfeeding definitely had hidden costs. I’m the first of my group of friends to have a child, so there weren’t any hand-me-downs. I didn’t include bottles and such in our total costs (just a few Dr. Browns and a bottle brush). This is our approximate breakdown:
- Lactation consultation visits at our home (2): $225
- Breastfeeding books (3): $20 – paid for one and got two free
- Nursing bras (4): $150
- Disposable nursing pads (so many): $80 and counting…
- Soothies gel pads (2): $20
- Earth Mama Nipple Butter: $8
- SoftShell Breast Shells: $15
- Bamboobies Boob-ease hot/cold packs: $30
- Nursing cover: $30 (we’ve used it twice, she hates it)
- Medela Pump: $200 with a coupon
- Medela Steam bags: $20
- Medela breastmilk bags: $30
- Boppy and cover: shower gift
- Lanolin cream: free from work
- Nipple shields (6): $20 – we got several free from the hospital and Little Deer’s OT appointments for latch issues
We had an extremely difficult time breastfeeding and ended up needing a lot more “stuff” than I had anticipated. All of this adds up to over $850… wowsers. I think for the next baby we’ll be pretty much set (fingers crossed!). Though it’s more expensive than we thought, not to mention challenging, we’re still breastfeeding (nipple shields and all!) and hope to continue on.
T R I K E S T E R - 9 M O N T H S
Things my insurance covered in full:
- LC visits
- Breast pump
- Dr’s visits and antibiotics when I got mastitis
- One nipple shield
Things I bought that I wouldn’t have purchased had I used formula:
* Two maternity nursing tanks from Walmart
* Three nursing bras from Target
* Three extra shields
* Four shield cases
* Breast pads
* One head of cabbage when I had mastitis
* Mother’s milk tea
* Glass bottles for milk storage
I’m pretty sure I spent less than $300 for almost five months of breastfeeding. I don’t know how much formula costs, but I think it’d be more expensive and I don’t anticipate having to spend any more to get us through to one year.
S C R I B B L E S - 1 2 M O N T H S
Looking at my list, most of the purchases I’ve made were to assist me in pumping or so I could pump or nurse comfortably in public. Since I’m an SAHM, I only pump occasionally so that I can get away sans baby, and I rarely nurse in a privacy-free area. So most of my purchases were wants and not needs.
Even more, a couple of these items (the hospital pump I rented when the ER doctor told me I needed to pump and dump after receiving IV antibiotics, for example) I bought out of sheer ignorance about the necessities and realities of breastfeeding. (Silly doctor; I didn’t need to pump and dump after all!)
Many of these items came to me as shower gifts. I’ll put an asterisk beside things I purchased myself:
Breastfeeding book (borrowed from a cousin)
Boppy + cover. I found I really only have needed the one cover that came in the package. In the beginning breastfeeding was more messy. At times when the cover was in the wash I would just lay a flannel blanket over the naked pillow.
Breastfeeding cover. Totally useless for me. He hated being under it in the beginning and now he’s so big that we need something gigantic. I usually just use a blanket, towel, sweater, scarf– basically whatever is on hand!
* Nursing tanks & bras. I spent about $150 on four bras and four shirts, mostly from Motherhood Maternity and Target. After three months postpartum the shirts were entirely too big so I put them away to use when (God willing) I get pregnant again. They’d be great second trimester clothes! The sleep bras (2 for 20 dollars, Gilligan O’Malley for Target Brand) I stopped using around month 3 when I was no longer leaking so much. I still use the two structured bras (Bravado Basics and a Motherhood underwire bra) all the time, but honestly hate the fit of both now that I’ve lost all the pregnancy weight. So now I often wear a regular bra and just unhook it! I can do this because Scribble’s nursing schedule is pretty solid so I’m not usually caught unaware that it is time to eat.
Lactation Consultant. Free the first time around thanks to the hospital. We haven’t had to go back yet.
*Lanolin. Do not buy this! They had samples at the hospital in my welcome bag. See if you get one before buying. I have a giant tube I never even used! Mine cost 9.99.
*Breast Shield. It helped immensely when I was so engorged in the beginning. This was a suggestion from the LC. 6.99.
*Medela Symphony, rented from hospital for one week. 75.00.
EvenFlo Pump-n-Go Dual Electric. This was my pump months 0-6, but it died on me. Fortunately it was a gift so when I upgraded, the new one was the first pump I had to buy.
*Ameda Purely Yours. My current pump. 150.00.
Milk storage bags. I bought 50 with a shower giftcard and haven’t used them all yet at eight months. I put the milk in reusable bottles often; mostly I just don’t store milk a lot since I’m an SAHM.
*Fenugreek. 4.99. Got it when my AF came back. Didn’t end up having to use it.
*Tomme Tippee bottles/brush. We got a few as shower gifts, then bought a few more. Honestly, we have barely used them; Scribble went on a bottle strike between November and February. But still, I was proud of this purchase– I got a starter set from Homegoods for 6.99 that usually retails for nearly 30 at Babies r Us!
All told, we’ve spent about 400 dollars on breastfeeding supplies. Assuming we’d spend 150 dollars a month on formula, that means we’ve saved 800 dollars so far!
Still, if I had to do it over again, I would not have bought as many shirts, rented the hospital pump, or bought extra bottles. That would have been an additional 100 dollars in savings!
I am glad that if we are blessed with another I will already have a boppy, nice maternity shirts and nursing bras to wear again, plus a great new pump to use.
I would also advise pregnant women to register for nursing essentials to lower costs. Don’t register for stuff like bottles– you don’t know how many/what brand you’ll need to use. Register for the stuff you’ll need to BF and buy the stuff you need to bottle-feed if you end up going that route. That way, you are less likely to register for items you ultimately never use.
B A B Y H - 1 6 M O N T H S
I thought mine wasn’t much until I added it up! Although, a big chunk of things was my pump. In total I’m right around $500 spent.
- Medela Pump in Style: $265, included a package of disposable nursing bra pads, Lanolin, 1 box of milk storage bags, and an extra package of small bottles to pump into/store milk.
- Angel Baby Nipple Butter: $8
- 25 Dr. Brown’s glass bottles: purchased used for $30
- Lansinoh Breastmilk Storage Bags: $18
- A few cheap nursing tanks from Old Navy: $20
- Hands free pumping bra (hated, only used once): $35
- NUK Breast Therapy, Warm or Cool Relief Pack (never used): $11.50
- More Milk Plus supplements: $50
- Extra pump parts: $30
- Avent Breast Shells: $11.50
- Nipple shields: $15
- My Brest Friend: Shower gift
L I T T L E M - 2 1 M O N T H S
I estimate that I spent a few hundred dollars on breast feeding gear, which has gotten me through 21 months so far. I think that a lot of my breastfeeding expenses were “wants” and not “needs” whereas many of the expenses related to formula feeding are “needs.” I also think a lot of the stuff I bought as a first time mom was unnecessary and I’ll mark those with a star. I’ve recouped some expenses by selling the stuff I didn’t need or that I don’t use anymore on a local mom’s list. Some of the things I bought or borrowed included:
Borrowed or hand-me-downs:
- Breast pump (which I’ve since learned is really NOT safe to do and now that my insurance covers rental, I wouldn’t do again)
- My Brest Friend pillow* (choose one or the other or use a bed pillow)
- Boppy pillow* (choose one or the other or use a bed pillow)
- Nursing bras
- Nursing tanks
- Milk storage bags (leftovers from a friend)
- Breast pads* (also leftovers from a friend that I gave away and then used pieces of cut-up flannel receiving blanket instead)
- Nursing tanks
- Mother’s Milk Tea*
- More Milk Plus
- Warm/cold compression packs*
- Pump parts
- Mother Love cream*
- Pumpin’ Pal hands-free pump system* (one of my biggest purchase regrets since it was not comfortable for me at all)
- Adjustable sports bra (so I could nurse and so I could adjust it as my breasts were different sizes at different times of the day)
- Breastfeeding cover*
- Boppy cover to match nursery*
Covered by Insurance:
- LC visits at the hospital
- Antibiotics and doctor’s bills for mastitis
- Treatment for thrush* (which didn’t work, household vinegar finally did the trick)
- Gel soothies
- Nipple extractor
- Breast Shields (only used for a week)
Free but very valuable:
- Breastfeeding support groups
- Breastfeeding support group listserv
L I T T L E C O N F E T T I – 1 5 M O N T H S
I had myself convinced that breastfeeding was free, but I was totally wrong, and I’m astonished to see how much I spend when it all adds up (and I bought nearly everything myself).
- Breastfeeding Class at the Hospital: $50
- Medela Freestyle Pump: $335
- Medela Bottle Set: $22
- Medela Storage bags: $16
- Medela Micro-Steam Bags (for pump parts): $30
- Boppy and cover: $45
- Nursing cover (that C hated): $30
- Parking and co-pays for three doctor’s visits for mastitis: $75
- Lanolin and Newmans Nipple Cream prescription: $20
- Lansinoh Gel soothies (bought about 5-6 packs – I was a cracked and bleeding mess): $50
- Medela Breast Shells (the ultimate solution): $20
- Nursing pads (I was a fountain of milk for my entire nursing relationship): $30
- Nursing bras: $80
- Nursing tanks: $30
The grand total: $833
Sadly, our nursing relationship was fraught from the start, and I decided, for Little C’s health and my own mental health, to wean around 5.5 months, totally finished by 6 months.
When we switched to formula, we used the same bottles we already had from my pumping days, and only bought formula (Target brand – $21.99 per tub, each one lasting a bit longer than a week, and longer as his formula intake decreased as solids increased) and baby water jugs (because Chicago has very high flouride levels – two jugs a week at $1 each). The grand total for the next six months? $24 x 26 weeks = $624.
Of course, I was lucky that Little C had no health complications that made him require more expensive formula, but overall, I think it would have been cheaper to just formula feed from the start.
Still, I value the special time we spent together nursing (especially once it was less painful and before my supply made things so stressful). If/when we had more children, I am glad I will have some of the more expensive parts of the nursing stash already purchased, and I will try again and be happy if it works out and less hard on myself if it doesn’t.
J A C O B I - 1 8 M O N T H S
For myself I didn’t spend hardly anything on breastfeeding. The thread surprised me because I didn’t see most of it as “essentials,” although for some I suppose it is. I also wasn’t a WOHM until just recently so I didn’t need nearly as many supplies.
- four glass Dr. Brown’s bottles
- TONS of reusable nursing pads
- A few boxes of milk storage bags
- Latch Assist (a BF MUST for anything with flat or inverted nipples!)
- Medela pump – $50
- back up evenflo pump – $40
- new tubes for pump – $20
- five nursing bras: about $50
- nursing tank top: $20
- one pack of milk storage bags: $10??
- Mothers milk tea: $3-$4 for a box
I also bought two additional nursing tanks, but I actually bought them as maternity wear so I would have had them whether I was nursing or not so I’m not adding in the cost of those.
As a SAHM for the first year, I hardly used the pump so I probably could have done without it. But I really did appreciate having it. I actually found mine nearly brand new at a local consignment store for $50; the other mom had only used it a few times. I just bought new tubing and parts. I also think nursing bras, though nice, are unnecessary because after about six months I went back to wearing normal bras and just pulling them down when I needed to nurse.
I will say though that my biggest cost of nursing is actually TIME. I have to say it’s a lot easier to mix formula into a bottle and feed a child that way. Breastmilk not only has a high learning curve which involves a lot of time, but let down and feeding is at least twice as long as bottle-feeding. And if you pump, it’s twice as long as that because you pump and then bottle-feed! But I wouldn’t trade it for all the time in the world – I’ve loved that special time with my son!
L I A M - 1 7 M O N T H S
- Medela Pump in Style Advanced, purchased with gift cards
- Luna Lullaby nursing pillow with cover
- 2 pots of Mother Love nipple cream, one gifted, one purchased with a gift card
- 2 Nursing covers, one gifted, one purchased with a gift card
- 2 Playtex nurser starter kits, one gifted, one purchased with a gift card
- Several boxes of Playtex or Target brand drop in bottle liners
- 3 Target nursing bras
- 4 Target nursing tanks
- 1 box of More Milk tea
- 10ish boxes of Lansinoh nursing pads
- 2 sets of extra pump parts
- 5ish boxes of milk storage bags
- 2 Playtex pump adapter and milk storage kits
- Boon grass countertop drying rack
I’m not sure the bottles and drop-ins count, though, because those things are needed with both breast and formula fed babies.
Since my pump, the accessories, the pillow, and the bottles can be used for future babies, the cost over time is minimal compared to formula feeding!
C H L O E - 2 2 M O N T H S
I had every intention of breastfeeding, then wasn’t able to. I bought several nursing bras from Motherhood Maternity (they were expensive!) and lots of nursing tanks and tops (that I barely used) as well. I probably spent $100-$200 on bras and tops alone.
- Breastfeeding books
- Boppy (2)
- Boppy Covers (3)
- Nursing tanks & bras
- Lactation Consultant ($20 co-pay, saw the LC 3x)
- Pediatrician ($20 co-pay, saw weekly for weight checks for 6 weeks)
- Pump parts (insurance covered)
- Breast Shield (LC gave this to me)
- Medela Electric Double Pump (rented from hospital, $60/week for 4 weeks)
- Milk storage bags (bought & never used)
- Bottle Brushes
- Dishwasher Baskets (I don’t know why we bought these, we ended up washing all the bottle parts and nipples by hand!)
- Playtex Bottles (we bought 6oz & 8oz bottles)
- Playtex nipples
- Playtex Drop In Liners
- Similac Formula
I seriously don’t even want to do the math to figure out what this cost us. I ended up exclusively formula feeding her, and formula alone was somewhere around $100 a month until she started eating solids. Then she started taking less formula, and our grocery bill went up anyway. :P
N O E L L E - 2 Y E A R S
J A R E N — 8 M O N T H S
That was a VERY interesting thread as I never thought about breastfeeding being costly, but it all really adds up!
- 1 Simple Wishes Hands-Free Bra ($35)
- 2 Bravado Nursing Tanks ($88)
- 3 Bravado Nursing Bras ($135)
- Medela Pump-in-style-advanced ($250)
- Lansinoh Breast Pads ($30)
- Boppy ($39)
- My Brest Friend ($40)
- Mother love nipple cream ($9)
- Honeysuckle breastmilk storage bags – 300 count ($45)
- First years breastmilk organizer ($16)
- Dr. Brown bottles ($20)
- Ventaire bottles ($12)
- 2 Bottle brushes ($10)
- Bebe Au Lait Nursing Cover ($24)
- Mother’s Milk Tea ($10)
- Fenugreek ($10)
- More Milk Plus ($25)
Total = $798 (yikes!)
The good thing is I’m using everything again for the 2nd child, with the exception of the supplements because I haven’t needed them (yet).
M A V R I C K – 3 Y E A R S
S I E N N A – 1 6 M O N T H S
Even though I didn’t breastfeed for a long time with Mavrick, I’m still nursing Sienna so the cost averages out pretty well. Compared to others I didn’t need much while nursing. I tried to avoid additional spending, but I needed the following.
- Nursing Bras : $80
- Breast Shield : $8 (but used it twice)
- Nursing Pillow : $40
- Nursing Cover : gift
- Medela Swing Pump: $189
- Storage bags : $5
- Nursing Pads : $40 (I started off with disposables and then got washables)
- Nursing Pyjamas : $50 (I never really used them for nursing so definitely a waste of money for me)
$ 412 for 2 kids is not bad
R I A - 3 Y E A R S
S U N N Y - 1 9 M O N T H S
- 2 Bravado Tanks (which I lived in during the third trimester as well) probably $100 for both with tax
- A couple nursing bras I hated and never wore: $150
- I borrowed an Ameda Purely Yours pump but bought tubing: $25
- 1 Safe Start Bottle: $15
- 1 package of gerber storage bags : $6
- Borrowed a nursing pillow, was given nursing pads, Lactation consultant was covered by BC medical, lanolin was given to me in the hospital.
Around $300 total.
With Sunny I couldn’t borrow the same stuff because my friend had a baby a month later! So I bought:
- Posh ‘n Plush Nursing Pillow (used): $40
- Ameda Purely Yours Pump (gift from my parents, but it was around $150)
- 2 more Bravado tanks (because I wore them every day and wore them out!) $100
- Elomi Nursing Bra: $55
- 1 pack gerber storage bags: $6
- 1 pack nursing pads: maybe $10?
Again, somewhere around $300, although half was a gift. I’m hoping to sell the pillow and pump though, so I should get back over $100 of it.
And I would have bought the tanks and bras regardless, as I wore them for maternity as well. I wear bras in the same price range all the time so I don’t really consider that a big deal.
I think the monetary value of all the gear I used to help enable me to breastfeed or provide exclusive breastmilk for Charlie is probably close to what I would have spent on formula for the first year of his life, especially because I eventually ended up exclusively pumping which required purchasing more gear. But I sold what I could and reused everything for Olive, only buying supplements to increase my milk supply, antibiotics/probiotics for mastitis, a travel Boppy, and some extra bottles. Since we’re still nursing at almost 24 months and I never bought any formula for her, it’s definitely been cheaper to breastfeed than formula feed two kids!
Received free from the hospital:
- milk storage bags & nursing pads
- nipple shields
- breast shells
- Gel Soothie Pads
Received as gifts:
- Medela In Style Advanced Pump
- Milk Storage Organizer (didn’t use and later sold)
- My Brest Friend (preferred the Boppy and sold)
- nursing cover (barely used… I preferred using an Aden & Anais blanket so later sold)
- In Home Lactation Consultant – $200
- 1 Bravado Nursing Bra (barely used; could have lived without) – $44
- 2 Bravado Nursing Tanks (barely used; could have lived without) – $88
- 3 Medela nighttime bras (lived in these) – $45
- many boxes of Lansinoh Nursing Pads (I leaked a lot for a very long time) – approx $100
- antibiotics (for mastitis) – $10
- probiotics (for mastitis) – $31
- Gerber Hot Cold Therapy Packs – $10
- Boppy – $50
- Travel Boppy (lifesaver while flying) – $40
- 2 Comotomo bottles (when Olive went on a nursing strike) – $28
Purchases Related to Exclusive Pumping:
- Extra Pumping Supplies (membranes, valves, connectors, breastshields) – Since I eventually ended up exclusively pumping, these were essential. Also the breastshields that came with the pump did not fit, so after some trial and error I found the right size. – approx $80
- Extra Pumping Bottles (also a necessity since I exclusively pumped) – $16
- 2 Hands-Free Pumping Bras (couldn’t have lived without these) – $52
- many Lansinoh Milk Storage Bags – approx $45
- 3 bottles of More Milk Plus (2 with Charlie, 1 with Olive) – $45
- Fenugreek, Blessed Thistle & Mother’s Milk Tea – $35
Total: $919 spent
I didn’t include a drying rack, bottles, bottle brushes, or a bottle warmer because I would have gotten those even if we formula fed. However I did purchase extra bottles because of Olive’s nursing strike, which I wouldn’t have to do if she were formula fed.
If I were having my first child now, a pump would be covered by insurance, which was the single biggest expense, and I wouldn’t have purchased so much expensive nursing related clothing. But other than that, I really used most of everything on this list!
J A M E S , J O E , N I C K - 4
L I L L Y – 2 2 M O N T H S
These are some of the things I had, but I honestly can’t remember how much it all cost. This is what I had for the twins.
I was given:
- a twin breast feeding pillow
- a double electric pump
- nursing bras (4)
- Nursing shirts (2 but I figured out I hated them and just wore regular clothes that I could pull down)
- Nursing cover (also didn’t use this, when tandem nursing it didn’t cover so I just used and old sarong and covered us all up.)
- Nursing pads
- Lanolin cream
- bottles (I already had a bunch from James because he was formula fed)
- bottle warmer
- bottle brush
- dishwasher case for bottle parts
For Lilly I bought:
- nursing bras (2)
- nursing pads
- lanolin cream
- a single electric pump (The double one I was given before broke)
. . . . .
What products/services did you buy to help you breastfeed? Would it have been cheaper for you to formula feed the first year?