I chose to breastfeed my first child for many of the same reason most mothers choose to breastfeed: it was the healthiest choice for her. Through my journey of breastfeeding my 4 children for a total of more than 6 years, I’ve learned that breastfeeding is about so much more than a few IQ points, lower chances of allergies and a healthier BMI. And I’m so thankful for so many reasons that I’ve been able to breastfeed my children.
The breastfeeding journey isn’t always easy (as I pointed out in my popular “MY Breastfeeding Truth” article) and there have been plenty of times I’ve wanted to throw in the towel and just give up, dreaming of my “freedom,” but I’ve always persisted because I know that breastfeeding is best. Not just for my children but also for myself and for everyone around us, really.
As we enter World Breastfeeding Week 2016 (August 1-7) and National Breastfeeding Month (August), I’m happy to be able to bring awareness to the importance of breastfeeding and I’m glad I’ve been able to support other mommies I know through their own journeys.
It’s obvious that breastfeeding saves money because it’s basically free aside from the extra 500 calories mommies need a day. But what is the true cost of not breastfeeding?
Kelly Mom estimates that a year of formula in 2016 costs between $816 and $3,164 (for formula only, not including the costs of bottles, water, cleaning supplies, etc.) and a 1999 research article showed that exclusively-formula fed babies accrue $331-$475 more in healthcare expenses over the first year than babies who were exclusively breastfed for as little as 3 months whereas a Kaiser Permanente study (in 1992-1993) showed that babies who were exclusively breastfed to 6 months had $1,435 less healthcare expenses than formula fed babies. (all data from kellymom.com)
For mommies like me, that means a savings of $11,492 over my 4 children’s first years which is not at a small amount (based on the mid-prices of formula and healthcare costs).
No matter how we choose to feed our babies, being woken up in the middle of the night is inevitable. But one of the perks of breastfeeding for me is that I can wobble into baby’s room in the middle of the night, scoop him up to my breast and be back in bed within 15 minutes. And it was even easier when my babies were tiny and sleeping next to me. Every minute of sleep counts and our overall well-being as mothers depends on getting enough rest.
A 2011 research article published in Clinical Lactation (by Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, Zhen Cong, and Thomas W. Hale) found that on average, mothers who exclusively breastfeed get .31 more hours of sleep per night than mothers who exclusively formula feed. It doesn’t seem like much (a mere 18.5 minutes each night) but over the course of a single year, that amounts to more than 113 hours of sleep!
Not having to worry about anything more than pulling my boob out to feed my baby is so much less stressful than having to prepare and feed bottles or having to remember to bring bottles, worry about where I’m going to prepare them or how many I’ll need. Yes, breastfeeding means I have to take my baby with me most places I go but I kind of like my babies so it doesn’t bother me (definitely not saying that to mean formula feeding mommies don’t like their babies just that I personally would choose take my babies with me everywhere breastfeeding or not.)
The same study referenced above also found that mothers who formula fed reported less energy and overall health than mothers who exclusively breastfed were 50% more likely to experience maternal depression.
One of the biggest perks of breastfeeding for me, has always been the time savings. I love that when baby is hungry (tired, hurt, fussy…) it takes me under a second to get him/her on the breast. And while some babies, like my first, can take 30+ minutes to feed at the breast, others can finish in as little as 5-10 minutes. And though the same goes for formula fed babies, the preparation time doesn’t really change.
The World Health Organization offers a 19-step process for proper formula feeding (found here) which includes cleaning, sanitizing, preparing and mixing the feed. Here’s my estimates for how long each step takes (some steps have been combined):
Wash and dry hands: 30 seconds
Wash and rinse a bottle: 1 minute
Fill a pan of water and place bottle parts inside: 1 minute
Cover and bring water to rolling boil: 5 minutes
Clean and disinfect a work surface: 30 seconds
Wash and dry hands: 30 seconds
Boil water (if not using ready-to-serve formula): 5 minutes
Read package instructions and dilution amounts: 1 minute
Pour the correct amount of water (at a minimum of 70 degrees and cooled for no longer than 30 minutes) and the proper number of scoops of formula into the bottle: 1 minute
Gently shake to mix: 30 seconds
Cool the bottle to feeding temperature under cool running tap water: 1-3 minutes
Dry bottle and test temperature: 30 seconds
Feed bottle to baby.
That comes out to about 15 minutes per bottle (if you do one thing at a time vs. multi tasking). I realize a lot of mommies make multiple bottle at a time and skip a lot of these steps but even doing this process two times a day is a half hour spent preparing bottles which amounts to 182 hours over the first year.
Choosing to breastfeed over formula feeding is a decision every mommy has to make for herself by weighing the pros and cons of each whenever possible (I realize it’s not always a choice for every mommy in every situation) but for me, I’m glad to have been able to breastfeed all of my children through self-weaning.