Infant formula costs add up, quickly. Babies who do not breastfeed will need a certain amount of prepared ounces of formula every day. To determine (roughly) how much formula a baby needs, one must take the number of the baby’s weight in pounds, multiply it by 2.5, and give the resulting number of ounces over a 24 hour period. For example:
Baby = 12 lbs
12 x 2.5 = 30
Average amount of formula given per day = 30oz
This is a basic estimate that cannot account for individual needs, pediatricians’ orders, or growth spurts. This estimate also cannot cover any amount of formula that is wasted by the baby spitting up, vomiting, or bottle leftovers that end up being discarded. Most likely, variations from this amount would require the baby to have more formula, not less.
Currently, the most inexpensive formula offered at WalMart is the “Parent’s Choice” brand, sold for $12.88 in a 23.2 ounce container. Typically, powdered formula is mixed at a ratio of one part (1oz) powdered formula to two parts (2oz) water, resulting in two ounces of prepared formula. Crunching some numbers, this particular container of formula will only make 46.4 ounces of bottle-ready formula, which will only feed the example 12lb baby for a day and a half (provided the baby doesn’t need more and that his digestive system can tolerate the “inexpensive” formula). Given this specific example of very inexpensive formula and a 12lb baby that needs only 30oz per day, the baby’s family will pay an amount of $193.20 in one month for formula. In a year’s time, this costs the family $2,316. However, that is not even a fair estimate, as the example baby will gain weight and need even more formula each month as it grows.
It is also worth mentioning that popular “name brand” infant formulas sell in similarly sized containers for an average of $20.00 or more each, some costing between $25 – $30.00 (per unit, these are often sold in bulk packages). A low estimate of the monthly cost of this more expensive (but still median-priced) formula is approximately $300.00 per month, equaling out to $3600 annually. Again, this isn’t an accurate assumption because babies will need even more formula as they grow. Worse still, if a baby develops intolerances or allergies to ingredients in lower-cost formulas, even more expensive “specialty” formulas may be needed. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that formula cost may be a major factor in parents prematurely “pushing” a baby onto solid foods (before six months), which is not recommended by most pediatricians, yet occurs fairly frequently in the U.S.
Government-funded social programs provide formula to families who cannot afford to buy it, at a high cost to taxpayers. A 2010 report in the journal Pediatrics suggests, based on research findings by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), that over $13 billion and approximately 1,000 lives could be saved annually in the U.S. if breastfeeding rates met medically-recommended levels (80-90% of women breastfeeding for at least six months).
Breastfeeding mothers who work will need to express milk with a breast pump for the baby’s use while they are apart, and can easily purchase a serviceable breast pump, accessories, and bottles for less than one month’s supply of low-priced baby formula. Given the health benefits and protection against illness that breast milk provides for babies, breastfed infants will need less visits to doctors. Fewer doctor appointments mean less co-pays, medication costs, and missed work days for parents.
Not only will breastfeeding a baby help it to be healthier and better fed for far less financial strain on the family than formula-feeding, parents don’t have to worry about things like over-feeding, proper handling/sterilization of bottles, or doing all of that ounce-to-pound ratio math. In a depressed economy, and with the medical evidence and recommendations that favor breastfeeding as a healthy and viable option for most women and babies, formula feeding seems a counterproductive choice for families.
If you enjoyed this article, be sure to click “like” or “share” on the Facebook link at the left, and click here to see Melanie Nowlin’s entire resource article collection on the subject of breastfeeding. You can also follow her on Twitter for links to new articles, breastfeeding Q&A, and daily updates. Ms. Nowlin also manages a Facebook community, “Breastfeeding Support and Advocacy”, to which she posts article updates and helpful links for breastfeeding and expecting mothers.