4 Ways Breast-Feeding Saves Money
I breast-fed my son exclusively for the first six months of his life, and then I supplemented his meals with some homemade baby foods. For his first twelve months, most of his food was breast milk. I didn't do this out of cheapness, but I did save thousands of dollars on feeding my child. Here are some reasons why breast-feeding can save money. (See also: Cheap Way to Get Rid of Plastic Baby Bottles)
Breast Milk Is "Free"
I never knew how much baby formula cost until I started to look at baby products during pregnancy. Formula currently costs around $2,000 to $3,000 for the first year of a baby's life if purchased at retail prices. On the other hand, breast milk is produced by the mother from the food she consumes, so it is essentially "free," since the mother needs to eat anyway. Some women need to take in more calories than usual, but most women have enough fat stores from pregnancy so that extra food is not needed to produce milk. Personally I did spend a couple hundred dollars on breast-feeding equipment, and you can read my detailed account about breast pumps.
Breast-Feeding Equipment Is Tax Deductible
As mentioned in the previous section, you do have to buy breast pumps and other breast-feeding equipment if you intend to store your milk. A recent IRS ruling on breast-feeding equipment just made this expense tax deductible, so you can use your Medical Flexible Spending Account to pay for them. This means that you can potentially use pre-tax money to buy breast-feeding equipment, and that makes the costs even lower. This decision is stirring up controversy because many claim that this discriminates against non-breast-feeding moms, but that brings me to part of the next point, that breast-fed babies generally cost the government less in medical costs.
Breast-Fed Babies Are Sick Less Often
There are numerous studies that show that breast-fed babies are less likely to experience Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and other childhood diseases. One big reason is that breast milk carries many antibodies produced by the mother, and the baby gets some of the immunities against the diseases the mom has already experienced. A healthy child incurs very few medical costs, and in an analysis published in Pediatrics last year, the authors state that if all U.S. women followed the recommendation to breast-feed their babies exclusively for the first six months of life, then the nation would save $13 billion a year in medical costs.
Health Benefits to Mom
There have been numerous studies that show that moms who breast-fed for six months had less chance of developing diseases such as reproductive cancer and diabetes. Another huge benefit is that breast-feeding moms lose their pregnancy weight a lot easier than moms who do not breast-feed. This is because producing a full day's milk for a baby burns 500 to 600 calories. This is equivalent to running for an hour and a half. Personally, I lost almost 40 pounds in nine months on the "breast-feeding diet," which consisted of eating as much as I wanted and feeding the baby breast milk. My BMI went from overweight to the middle of the normal range, and I'm keeping the weight off. Less obesity and health issues for breast-feeding mom also means fewer medical costs.
Breast-feeding is a very personal choice, and it does not work out for everyone for many reasons. However, from a purely financial perspective it is the cheapest way to feed and care for your new baby. I am glad that it worked out for my family, and I really encourage new moms to at least try it out if possible. It takes patience and practice to get a good routine going, but it is definitely worthwhile. The money we saved on formula has already gone to our son's college fund, and in 17 years the couple-thousand dollars we contributed will hopefully grow into a tidy sum.
What do you think? Did you ever consider the financial benefits to breast-feeding?