When it comes to the positives of breastfeeding, the possibility of it being free is often quoted. My experience of giving breast milk to my sons hasn’t come quite so cheaply.
To be fair, expressing breast milk and giving it to an infant could be done for free. Find a suitable cup, sterilise it in boiling water, express by hand, and cup feed the milk.
Here is what giving breast milk has cost me in the past three months:
- Pumps. I have, and need, two breast pumps: one is electric and one is manual. The cost of these? A total of £150.
- Bottles etc. I choose to use bottles instead of a supplementation system (among other options). The cost of bottles, lids, and teats: a total of £45.
- Steriliser. This one isn’t a sole breast milk cost, as the steriliser is used for bottles that take formula milk, too. A total of £25.
- Breast care. Nursing bras have been a help to me, as have breast pads and Lansinoh. A total of £50.
Altogether, that’s a cost of £270 ($400*). Given that I need to replace teats every three months, by the time I stop (assuming I continue to give breast milk until Little Juniper is a year old), I will have spent another £20. These costs don’t include shipping, either. Not to mention, I did all this with Juniper Junior, too.
I guess to some people, the prospect of around £6oo to give breast milk to their children is a small price to pay. It’s what I’ve had to pay to be able to give my boys something other than formula milk, and yet, for all that money, Little Juniper gets a whopping six ounces of breast milk a day, plus however much he gets from nursing during the night. So I still pay for formula milk, too.
I could, at a push, have included the cost of babywearing and cosleeping, as they’re both suggested as a way to nurture and encourage breastfeeding and the production of breastmilk. I’m not going to include them, however, as regardless of how I fed my boys, babywearing and cosleeping would very much be a part of how we bring them up.
There is then something greater than the financial cost (not to diminish just how much £270 is), and that’s the cost to Little Juniper. He’s three months old, and already I’m having to find an hour and a half each day simply to express. (By the way, if I were being paid to express milk, my breast milk would be worth around £56 ($70) a litre.) All I can do is grab time where I can. There’s also being creative, which led to a recent moment of expressing while he was asleep in the mei tai. It was an interesting experience, to say the least, but he got his nap and I got milk. For some people, I can see that perhaps the time to express is easier to find. For me, I have to balance the time for expressing milk with looking after Juniper Junior, and caring for Mr. Juniper, too.
Well, there it is. Breastfeeding might be free, but for me, giving breast milk to my boys has been anything but.
*Exchange rate June 2013