When I had a baby, people were curious as to whether or not I was breastfeeding, and one comment I heard regularly was “Well, breastfeeding is free, so that’s a benefit.” And… breastfeeding isn’t quite free. Let’s look at how much breastfeeding costs.
Basic Breastfeeding Supplies
While there are a lot of products out there, there are some basics that most nursing moms will want.
Nursing bras – These make it much easier to feed a baby with ease without having to take off your entire bra. These bras are designed with a clip allowing the wearer to pull down one side to expose the breast for the baby to eat.
Nipple pads – For the first couple of weeks, nursing breasts leak. Sometimes that continues. If you want to keep your clothes dry, you will need nipple pads, either reusable or disposable.
Nipple cream – Having a baby eat at your nipple isn’t the most comfortable feeling at first, and many women deal with chapped and bleeding nipples. Nipple cream, such as lanolin or other creams, greatly help with healing and comfort.
These items aren’t terribly expensive, but are things that most mothers will absolutely want to have on hand.
More Advanced Breastfeeding Supplies
Nursing Pillow – Many women use a specially designed nursing pillow to help bring the baby to the proper height for nursing. Two popular ones are the Boppy and My Breast Friend, but there are others. Yes, you can use a standard pillow, but these are designed to wrap around your body and feel much more secure.
Nursing Clothes – While you can just pull up your shirt to nurse your baby, if you plan to nurse in public, you may want nursing clothes, which are clothes designed with openings to make it easy to discreetly pull out a breast to nurse. These are especially nice if you want to wear a dress somewhere – no one wants to have to strip down to nurse.
Nipple Shields – Sometimes babies have trouble latching, requiring mothers to use nipple shields, basically little silicone pieces that go over the nipple and create a better shape for the baby to latch onto.
Lactation Consultant – Many women benefit from the expertise of a lactation consultant, a person who is trained in breastfeeding techniques and can assist with any issues that the mother and baby are having. You would think that something as basic as feeding would be easy and innate, but breastfeeding is actually quite challenging, and there are some big hurdles for mother and baby. Lactation consultants are great resources for any nursing mother. I was lucky that my insurance covered these consults, but this can be a big breastfeeding cost.
Here’s where you start spending money, though for many women, these aren’t necessities.
If you ever plan to be away from your baby, you will need to be able to pump milk, which requires pumping supplies.
Breast Pump – Your health insurance is required to cover a breast pump when you have a baby. The quality of that breast pump may vary. My insurance, for example, covers a terrible pump that is generally not recommended, so I ended up purchasing my own pump. You may also want to purchase a more portable pump. There are wearable pumps, such as the Elvie, and there are small pumps like the Baby Buddha that allow you to move around while you pump.
Bottles – If you’re pumping milk, you need a way to feed that to the baby. Bottles aren’t all the same either. Did you know some babies will reject certain shapes of bottles? I definitely didn’t. So you may need to try a few types before you figure out what works for you.
Breast Milk Storage Bags – If you’re pumping milk, you may be able to put it in the freezer to build up a milk stash to feed to your baby as you finish breastfeeding or when you go back to work. Milk storage bags are the common way to store frozen breastmilk, though some moms use mason jars or other methods.
For me, my breast pump was my biggest purchase, but it’s also something I use daily as I pump while my baby is at daycare.
Many women feel that they struggle to produce enough milk, and when that happens, they often turn to dietary supplements called galactagogues, which are things that can help a women increase her breastmilk supply. There are a variety of herbs that can be used, one of the most common (and controversial) being fenugreek. There are also foods that are galactagogues, including oatmeal and ginger. You can buy all sorts of snack products designed to help with breastmilk production, but be warned that a lot of them (such as the cookies and bars) have a lot of sugar as well, which may not be what you want to be doing. Personally, I like making my own lactation cookies, and yes, they’re just cookies, but if I’m going to have a cookie, it might as well have something that might help me out.
These come at a variety of price points, but many breastfeeding women try these out at some point, which definitely leads to increased breastfeeding costs.