Does breast-feeding really save money?
Outside the controversy is a more practical question: What does it actually cost to practice attachment parenting?
This post comes from Kimberly Palmer at partner site U.S. News & World Report.
The cover of a recent issue of Time magazine, featuring a woman breast-feeding her tall 3-year-old son, launched a range of strong reactions across the blogosphere. Some supporters of attachment parenting lauded the cover as "normalizing" breast-feeding past the age of 1, while others felt the defiant stance of mother and son seemed designed to spark outrage and even evoked pornography.
Amid the controversy, the actual article, which explores the rise of attachment parenting, was barely discussed. But attachment parenting, which often includes co-sleeping, long-term breast-feeding and near-constant togetherness of mother and child, also comes with a price.
As Hanna Rosin of Slate has pointed out, round-the-clock breast-feeding is hardly compatible with most women's jobs, and the constant sleep deprivation can interfere with getting work done during the day.
Rosin wrote in Slate, "There is the very basic objection that it is virtually impossible to do what the advocates say is best for your baby and have a job, which the vast majority of American mothers have these days." (Post continues below.)
There's also evidence that extended breast-feeding can have a negative impact on earnings. As Ruth Mantell wrote in The Wall Street Journal, breast-feeding can hurt a woman's ability to earn money for her family, largely because of the time it takes. She cited research that shows women who breast-feed for six months or longer face a steeper income decline than those who breast-feed less than six months. And as the researcher points out, money plays a vital role in children's well-being.
Breast-feeding itself is not always as free and easy as it might seem, either. In fact, it can be costly: Many new mothers need the services of lactation consultants, who can cost $100 an hour, and working mothers who spend time away from their babies need pumps, which can cost $400. Nursing tops and tanks, nursing pillows, nipple cream and other accessories add to the cost.
While avoiding formula certainly saves a lot -- more than $1,500 in the first year, by some estimates -- and breast-fed babies are less likely to come down with certain illnesses, which reduces health-care costs, breast-feeding today is certainly not "free," at least not for most people.
For parents committed to the attachment parenting model and breast-feeding, there are free resources that can help. La Leche League and the website KellyMom.com offer assistance and support to nursing moms. The IRS also recently changed flex spending rules so that breast pumps and related nursing supplies are eligible for tax breaks.
But it's not easy to overcome the challenge of finding the time to both work and practice attachment parenting. For parents with jobs that require them to be away for nine to 10 hours a day, it might not even be possible.
What do you think about the price of attachment parenting -- is it worth it?
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